Hurricane Lane is barreling down on the Hawaiian Islands — and tourists who are in the region or planning upcoming trips need to get prepared.
As of 5:00 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time on Wednesday, Hurricane Lane was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds speeds of 155 miles per hour, having been downgraded from a more severe Category 5 storm. It is only the second Category 5 hurricane to come within 350 miles of Hawaii on record, according to the National Weather Service.
Hawaii and Maui counties, which include the islands of Hawaii, Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe, were under a hurricane warning as of early Wednesday morning, meaning that hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Oahu and Kauai remained under hurricane watch, which means that hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours.
“Visitors planning to travel to or who are already here in the Hawaiian Islands should contact their airlines, accommodations and activity providers for information on being prepared and make adjustments to travel plans as needed,” the Hawaii Tourism Authority said in a public advisory.
Here is what tourists need to know about how Hurricane Lane is affecting travel in Hawaii:
Major tourist attractions are closing
Throughout the state, popular attractions including beaches and national parks have already closed in preparation for the storm’s arrival.
All beach parks along the western coast from Kohala to South Point in Hawaii County, also known as the Big Island, are closed until further notice, local news outlet KHON2 reported. Beaches across the state could experience storm surges and dangerous surf as the storm approaches.
Haleakala National Park, which is located on Maui, has also announced it will close Wednesday afternoon in preparation of the hurricane. The park will remain closed through Friday evening, at which point park management will evaluate when it can reopen. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has not issued an advisory regarding the hurricane, but most of the park was already closed due to ongoing seismic and volcanic activity tied to the eruption of Kilauea.
Boat tours to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which commemorates the sinking of the naval vessel during the attack on Pearl Harbor, have been suspended ahead of the hurricane. The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center is also closing early, and will remain closed until further notice, to let staff have time to prepare for the storm, the National Park Service told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Airlines are offering waivers
Multiple airlines, including Delta DAL, -1.20% Hawaiian HA, -4.00% Alaska ALK, -2.54% American AAL, -2.83% and United UAL, -1.32% are waiving rebooking fees for flights to and from multiple airports throughout Hawaii.
Policies vary, but generally the travel must have been booked before Aug. 21 to be eligible for a waiver. Most airlines are issuing waivers for trips set to take place between Aug. 22 and 25.
Generally, the waivers may only be used if the traveler books a new seat in the same cabin (economy or first-class) and to and from the same destinations as their original ticket. Most airlines also require that the new itinerary take place within a couple weeks of the original trip.
Some airlines are also offering refunds for travelers whose trips are being cancelled as a result of the storm.
Hawaiian Airlines currently has a notice on its website warning that customers calling its reservations department should expect longer-than-normal hold times as a result of the high call volume.
Those in Hawaii already should try to book flights out of the state as soon as possible, according to Sarah Schlichter, senior editor of travel website SmarterTravel. “You should try to fly out early if you can,” Schlichter said. “This way emergency services can focus on the locals during the storm.”
Travel insurance will cover changes in plans
Consumers with travel insurance will be covered for any changes in plans made as a result of the storm. But there’s a catch: Their policy must have been purchased before Hurricane Lane became a named storm on Aug. 15. If it was purchased after that point, it won’t cover hurricane-related travel changes, said Steven Benna, a marketing specialist with travel insurance comparison website Squaremouth.
A variety of situations are covered by travel insurance, Benna said, such as if a hotel is evacuated or a flight is cancelled. Travelers who have not yet made their way to Hawaii may also be eligible for trip cancellation coverage now that hurricane warnings are in effect.
Those already in Hawaii who have travel insurance can also get reimbursed for any additional expenses incurred if they choose to book transportation out of the state. “There’s a maximum amount of coverage based on the trip cost,” Benna said, which usually represents between 100 and 200% of trip cost. “That money can go toward unused portions of the trip as well as transportation-related expenses to get home.”
Evacuations could be ordered
If Hurricane Lane is forecast to hit the state directly, emergency officials could order evacuations along the coasts throughout Hawaii. Tourists staying in hotels and vacation rentals located in flood or evacuation zones would be affected in such a situation, particularly if the property is located on the shore.
Those staying in an evacuation zone should have medications and clothing packed in preparation.
Emergency authorities in Hawaii advised that tourists staying in hotels check with front desk staff to learn what emergency accommodations are available. Public shelters throughout the state will accept tourists.
Those in Honolulu can download the city’s mobile app, HNL.Info, to receive emergency push alerts and emails.
If they are not evacuated, tourists stuck in Hawaii during the storm should expect to shelter in place at their hotel or vacation rental as it passes. Those staying in the state should gather non-perishable food items, a flashlight with batteries and water from a local grocery store, in case the storm disrupts power or other services. Before the storm arrives, travelers should make sure their cell phones are fully charged, and during the storm they should keep curtains closed and consider taking shelter in a room without windows, Schlichter recommended.