Paradise-Bound: Hurricane Lane aims for Hawaii as a rare Category 4 storm

It’s not a good sign when the U.S. Navy orders all ships to leave port. But that’s what just happened in Hawaii.

The reason is Hurricane Lane, a Category 5 storm that weakened to a 4 Wednesday bearing down on the nation’s 50th state. You don’t hear of Category 4 or 5 much in the central Pacific, fortunately. A 5 has sustained winds of 160 miles an hour. A 4 only has up to 156 miles an hour.

This is only the second major storm to come within 350 miles of those islands, the last was John back in 1994. The worst one on record was in 1992 when Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai as a Category 4, causing $3.2 billion in damages.

Unfortunately, Lane will come a lot closer than 350 miles. Lane’s center may not pass directly over the islands. But its wind bands and slow eight miles an hour movement will bring strong winds, high surf and sustained heavy rains up to 20 inches starting Thursday morning through Saturday Hawaii time, which is six hours behind Eastern.

Residents performed the usual pre-storm rituals of buying generators, large sheets of plywood to board over windows and cleaning out store supplies of bottled water, foods and, of course, the most essential item, toilet paper. Schools and offices were closed for the duration and Gov. David Ige advised against driving. Do ya think?

So rare are big storms in Hawaii’s vast oceanic neighborhood that the Democrat governor had to admit the state’s shelters are only hardened for much less powerful tropical storms (up to 73 mph). And he warned those would standing room only.

Officials were anticipating that Lane would weaken further but naturally had no guarantees. Even a Category 2 (110 mph) or a 3 (129 mph) have powerful winds and the heavy rains would cause flooding and landslides.

Fortunately, the Mount Kilauea volcano is taking a break from new eruptions this month after its lava covered 13 square miles or almost 8,400 acres since early May.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city was using an abundance of caution. “We’re planning for the worst,” he said, “and hoping for the best.”