The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu is tracking Hurricane Madeline, now located about 400 miles east of the Big Island of Hawaii. The powerful storm is packing winds of 125 mph, a category 3, but a combination of cooler ocean waters and increased wind shear should weaken the storm to a category 1 or 2 by Wednesday.
The official track predicts the center of Madeline will pass just south of Hawaii, although some models still expect a landfall late Wednesday on the Big Island. Whether the storm makes landfall or not, hurricane-force winds and very heavy rainfall are likely. Therefore, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for the Big Island, and a tropical storm watch for the islands of Maui Molokai and Lanai. Given the elevated terrain of the islands, the rainfall, which could reach 12 inches, may cause dangerous mudslides and flash flooding.
Hawaii residents cannot let their guard down after Madeline moves through, however, as Hurricane Lester is fast on its heels. Lester, also a category 3 storm, is expected to approach the Hawaiian islands this weekend. The forecast currently calls for Lester to miss the islands directly, pushing just to the north, but the entire island chain is still in the forecast "cone of uncertainty."
Hawaii frequently has storms approach the islands but rarely deals with hurricane landfalls directly. In fact, only two hurricanes have made landfall in Hawaii since 1950, and none have hit the Big Island. In 2014, Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropical storm 12 hours before making landfall on the southern portion of the Big Island.
But recent studies have shown that hurricanes may become more frequent in Hawaii thanks to climate change, a pattern we have certainly seen over the past couple of years. El Nino also has played a role in the recent uptick of storm activity there.