Residents of the State of Hawaii are bracing for the impact of Hurricane Lane. The hurricane strengthened to a Category 5 on Tuesday night, and by 2 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time Wednesday, was located about 480 miles south-southeast of Honolulu. It was moving west-northwest at around nine miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour.

A Hurricane Warning is currently in effect for Hawaii County, with a Hurricane Watch in effect for Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kahoolawe, and Oahu. A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected within the next 36 hours, while a Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the next 48 hours. Tropical storm conditions are expected to affect Hawaii County, starting late Wednesday night into Thursday morning, with hurricane conditions possible by late Thursday night into Friday. Ten to 15 inches of rainfall are expected along with resulting flash flooding and landslides. State officials, according to CBS News, are urging residents to “prepare for the worst”, and have started closing beach parks and clearing streams.

This NASA satellite natural-color image made at at 10:45 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (20:45 GMT) on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, shows Hurricane Lane as a powerful category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour. The Big Island of Hawaii is at upper left. Hurricane Lane has weakened as it approaches Hawaii but was still expected to pack a wallop, forecasters said Wednesday, Aug. 22, as people hurried to buy water and other supplies and the Navy moved its ships to safety. (NASA via AP)
This NASA satellite natural-color image made at at 10:45 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time (20:45 GMT) on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, shows Hurricane Lane as a powerful category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 250 kilometers (155 miles) per hour. (NASA via AP)

Hurricane Lane comes off the back of the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano on the island of Hawaii, which has been ongoing since May. The eruption has resulted in the destruction in the destruction of approximately 700 homes, engulfed over 6,000 acres, and displaced around 800 residents of the island. This adds to the potential severity of the effects of Hurricane Lane, as the island of Hawaii is set to be the first in line to be battered by the hurricane.

Hawaii’s situation is made even more precarious because of its location in the middle of the Pacific approximately 2,500 miles from the continental United States. This makes mobilization of resources preceding and in the aftermath of a hurricane more challenging, because the resources must be moved vast distances by sea or air. Furthermore, the compounded effects of disasters are uniquely felt by islands as ports, by necessity the primary focal points for relief operations post-disaster, are vulnerable to storm surge and other impacts.

Islands do not have the redundancy provided by interstate road transportation. Additionally, if ports go down, the focus of disaster relief operations on islands must shift to airports, vastly reducing the capacity of relief operations.  Additionally, if the power grid of Hawaii was to go down, there are no power operators from which it can draw supplementary power to bring the grid back online, a situation unique to extremely isolated communities like Hawaii and Puerto Rico. To make matters worse, the concentration of the population in low-lying coastal areas and the topography of the island chain means that the population is highly vulnerable to storm surge and landslides.

Emergency Operations Center Honolulu (Andrew Pereira/City and County of Honolulu via AP)
In this photo provided City and County of Honolulu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell, center, receives a briefing from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center on Hurricane Lane at the Emergency Operations Center in Honolulu, Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane watch for parts of Hawaii. Senior Honolulu forecaster Tom Birchard says the watch for Hurricane Lane has been issued for the island of Hawaii and Maui County, which includes the island of Maui and other smaller islands. (Andrew Pereira/City and County of Honolulu via AP)

The potential effects of Hurricane Lane should not be underestimated, especially given the importance of Hawaii to the national security of the United States. Honolulu is home to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, which houses the headquarters of the United States Pacific Fleet, The Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Stations (the largest communications station in the world), and the headquarters of the Pacific Air Forces. Honolulu is also home to the headquarters of the United States Indo–Pacific Command, which is responsible for the American military in an area amounting to 52 percent of the Earth’s surface. Severe damage by Hurricane Lane could potentially cripple the operational capacity of American military forces throughout the Indo-Pacific.

In spite of the Hawaii’s importance in the national security sphere, the most severe impact of Hurricane Lane will undoubtedly be on the state’s population, particularly those in under-served communities. And as residents batten the hatches in anticipation of Hurricane Lane, little can be done but to hope for the best and expect the worst.

Sources and Further Reading

Hurricane Lane Advisory Number 31 – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Hurricane Lane: Monster Storm Strengthens to Category 5, Hawaii County under hurricane warning – CBS News

Kilauea Volcano Calming Down, USGS Reports – Epoch Times

Hawaii volcano update – Daily Express

Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam

United States Indo-Pacific Command