A Tale of Two Hurricanes: Lane & Iniki

Hurricane Lane, ultimately, a low impact storm

By Aarti Desai Insurance, Natural Hazard

On September 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai, causing over $3 billion in damage and six deaths. It was the second and final named hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii since Hurricane Dot in 1959.

Hawaiian landfalling hurricanes are historically pretty rare. Annually, between four and five tropical cyclones are observed on average in the Central Pacific.[1]  This makes the close call that was Hurricane Lane almost 26 years later fairly extraordinary. Even though it didn’t make landfall, at its peak it was a Category 5 hurricane in some uncommonly warm Pacific waters.

Lane ultimately did not make landfall, and by the time it brushed against Islands, it was a slow, meandering storm, dropping upwards of 50 inches of rain[2] and impacting Hawaii with tropical storm force winds. The risk of storm surge was low, with only 2-4 feet of above normal tide levels expected along the south and west facing shores near the center of Lane.

Hurricane

CoreLogic® determined that approximately 48,000 homes were either at Extreme or Very High risk for flooding prior to the event, and roughly 80% of the homes on the islands were at risk of tropical storm force winds.

Currently the NFIP has about 60,000 policies in Hawaii, about 1% of the total number of policies in the U.S. As a comparison, Florida, Texas and Louisiana together make up about 60% of the pie in terms of the number of policies.

Still, despite the incredibly high totals of rain, Lane was a low impact storm. There was no massive property damage reported from the island from this event, most of the flooding limited to roadways and a low number of properties. Much of the inundated areas were along the oceanfront and low land areas.

It’s still too early to determine what the financial losses will be like from Lane, especially given the low NFIP coverage, but if Iniki, a devastating Category 4 storm upon landfall, were to have happened today, it would have caused around $6 billion alone in insured losses from wind.

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[1] http://www.prh.noaa.gov/cphc/summaries/

[2] https://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/photos-lane-batters-hawaii-with-feet-of-rain-devastating-flooding-and-landslides/70005887

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