Hurricane in Hawaii brings back memories of Puerto Rico

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Hurricane season is back in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Nobody knows this better than the people of Hawaii. The island state of the U.S. recently went through a scare with the threat of Hurricane Lane off its coast.
As tropical storm Lane approached the Hawaiian shore, the usually sunny archipelago began to experience torrential rains and strong winds. On Aug. 22, President Trump declared a state of emergency for Hawaii’s main island. Flooding began to spread across the Hawaiian island on Aug. 24, causing water levels to rise up to three feet deep. By Aug. 28, Hawaii had experienced record rainfalls, with a total of 52 inches of rain.
The damage of tropical storm Lane is reminiscent of past hurricanes like Hurricane Maria, the storm that ravaged the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico in September of last year. That hurricane is regarded to be the deadliest natural disaster to effect Puerto Rico on record. The estimated death toll has risen to almost 3,000 causalities, which is 46 times larger than the original estimation. With Puerto Rico in mind people feared for the worst when Hurricane Lane approached Hawaii.
Atmospheric science students at ULM kept an eye on the hurricane nearing Hawaii. Students observed various similarities between the recent storm in Hawaii and previous ones like the one to hit Puerto Rico last year.
“Hurricane Lane and Hurricane Maria are both powerful, category five hurricanes that have impacted communities that don’t normally get hit by hurricanes,” said Lyli Frazier, an atmospheric science major.
Frazier says the lack of experience when it comes to dealing with hurricanes makes a huge difference in how a certain group of people deal with the hurricane. Their lack of experience with extreme weather left them unprepared for the strong winds and rain.
This isn’t where the similarities between the storms end. According to Gregory Melo, a sophomore atmospheric science major, both storms underwent a process known as “rapid intensification.” This occurs when a storm intensifies drastically over a short period of time.
“Rapid intensification has been a frequent occurrence in the past few years,” Melo said.
The time between the emergence of the storm and its upgrade to a category five hurricane, in both instances, was very short. This left the islands with little time to prepare for the oncoming storms and the flooding that came with them.
Vanelis Rivera, an english professor at ULM and her family who lived in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Maria have plenty experience with big storms. Having gone through hurricane Hugo, a storm that hit their residence on Saint Croix, her family knew what to expect from a category five hurricane. Unfortunately they weren’t counting on the devastating impact Hurricane Maria had on the island.
“[in Puerto Rico] We deal with not having power, but not for this long, for months even,” Rivera said after seeing her people go without power for a long time.
The island-wide black out following hurricane Maria made it hard to for residents to keep perishable food. With no goods being imported due to the damaged airports, the food drought worsened. The scarcity of resources led to a rise in looting.
“That was when neighbors really stepped up to help,” said Rivera, whose mother had taken care of Rivera’s grandmothers during the aftermath of Maria.
Today, Puerto Rico is beginning to look like its old self again. Power has been restored to most of the island, and life is starting to get back to normal. However, the new hurricane season has filled Puerto Rican citizens with a sense of fear and anxiety. Many are wondering what would happen if the island gets hit again.
Flooding from Lane has left Hawaiian citizens stranded among the high rising waters. While still being pelted with rain, two new tropical storms began making their way across the Pacific on Tuesday, one of which is predicted to undergo “rapid intensification.”
While Hawaii was spared from most of Lane’s power, a new hurricane could be heading their way. Humanitarian aid efforts are preparing to respond if Hawaii is hit again.