The 1871 hurricane
August 23, 2018 8:00 AM   Subscribe

After a sideswipe from Hector earlier this month, Hurricane Lane is threatening to be the first major hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii since Iniki in 1992. Prior to that, there are minimal English language accounts of a major storm that hit in 1871 but Hawaiian-language newspapers illuminate that hurricane.

Hawaii experienced an explosion in literacy, climbing from a near-zero literacy rate in 1820, to between 91 to 95 percent by 1834. More than 100 independent newspapers were printed in Hawaiian and represent the largest native-language cache in the Western Hemisphere.

Link to the actual paper: Hurricane With A History(pdf) How 114 years of Hawaiian-language newspapers starting in 1834 extend our knowledge of natural disasters into the nineteenth century and to precontact times. The searchable archive of translated Hawaiian language newspapers is publicly available.
posted by peeedro (13 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Fantastic post, thank you. And stay safe, anyone who’s in the path of Lane.
posted by rtha at 8:48 AM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting. The history aspect is interesting.

I've been following Lane closely on reddit (the r/tropicalweather thread is very helpful) since I'll theoretically be visiting in early Sept....really hoping we won't have to cancel since we will lose a ton of money with no travel insurance (smart, I know). The predictions are looking pretty rough, though it's always hard to tell with these things.

I hope everyone there now prepares well and stays safe.
posted by randomnity at 9:53 AM on August 23, 2018

Hurricane Iwa was in 1982.

This would be a rough time for Kauai to take another infrastructural blow.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:11 AM on August 23, 2018

Hurricanes are a regular risk in the Atlantic, but so rare in the Pacific. I hope Hawaii fares the storm as well as can be expected, with no major losses.

Thank you for this post. I've enjoyed reading about storm seasons outside of my usual Atlantic milieu. Storm names in other regions are fascinating.
posted by PearlRose at 10:28 AM on August 23, 2018

Thanks for this post. I am a (distance) educator at the University of Hawai'i so I have been on all of their email lists for this and getting regular updates. They are a model of how to communicate difficult news usefully and with great kindness.
posted by jessamyn at 10:46 AM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hurricanes are a regular risk in the Atlantic, but so rare in the Pacific.

Cyclones and typhoons are the same thing under different names, depending on where they occur. The Pacific gets plenty of 'em.
posted by rory at 11:08 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, it's more that Hawaii presents a pretty small target, being not a whole lot of landmass in the middle of a whole heck of a lot of ocean. Most big storms just pass by.

(Iwa technically didn't make landfall, passing slightly to the northwest of Kauai. Due to its damaging effects, most residents still consider it to have "hit" the state, technical definitions be damned.)
posted by tobascodagama at 11:53 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

NOAA uses separate definitions for the terms direct hit, indirect hit, strike, and landfall. Using their terminology, it is possible for a location to suffer a direct hit from a hurricane that never makes landfall.
posted by peeedro at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

My folks live in Honolulu. They've been preparing for their flight to Portland to visit me, which is scheduled to leave in two days. Looks like it's anybody's guess what happens next, or whether they'll even be able to fly out on Saturday. It sounds like they're as prepared for hurricane disruptions as they can be, all things considered. I'm keeping a close eye on the news. Not much I can do but hope and pray they'll be safe.

Meanwhile, I'm now on the fourth full consecutive day of 'lockdown' in Portland since I have asthma and the air quality is the worst ever.
posted by velvet winter at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

The 1945 Pacific typhoon season was outrageously crowded, and particularly ghastly -- wrecking havoc on the hundreds of U.S. Navy ships in the region. Battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers were being swamped mid-ocean, anchor-dragging across harbors, or colliding in the dark.

My father was in the Army on a small island near Okinawa at the time. During the storm, he and a buddy went down to the beach to watch the action. A massive wave plucked them off a hillside and dragged them across 50 feet of jagged coral reef. The coral ripped their flesh to ribbons, and they spent weeks in the hospital. My father bore lifelong scars as a result.
posted by Modest House at 12:30 PM on August 23, 2018

Yeah, there are lots of hurricanes/typhoons in the Pacific. 2017 had 27 named storms with 3 category 4 typhoons (Lan, Noru and Talim).

That said, the Atlantic had 2 category 5s last year and suffered much more overall damage.

2018 has already had a category 5 in the Pacific (Maria).
Japan and South Korea are currently being hit by typhoons Soulik and Cimarron.

Just like in the Atlantic, Pacific typhoons are going to keep getting worse thanks to climate change.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:10 PM on August 23, 2018

Not knowing what's going to happen is driving me nuts. I decided to go further inland and stay with my grandparents, but they're being so relaxed about it that it's making me even more worried while I refresh r/Hawaii and r/tropicalweather. It's their 3rd hurricane here and my first so I am deferring to them...
posted by taskmaster at 7:11 PM on August 23, 2018

Until this though I didn't realize that central/northeastern Pacific storms were called hurricanes, I thought all Pacific storms were typhoons.
posted by thefoxgod at 7:16 PM on August 23, 2018

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