Hurricane Lane, which collapsed in spectacular fashion as it drew close to the Hawaiian Islands, could have been much worse. Had it held together and edged slightly farther north, severe rain, wind, and surf would have bombarded Oahu and Maui. Instead, those islands were grazed.

Even so, bands of torrential rain repeatedly slammed into the Big Island's eastern half over five days. The total amount of rain, measured in feet, soared to historic levels: 51.53 inches were measured on Mountain View, about 15 miles southwest of Hilo.

This preliminary total ranks as the third highest for a tropical storm or hurricane in the U.S. since records began in 1950, said the National Weather Service office based in Honolulu. Hurricane Harvey, which engulfed Texas a year ago with a maximum rainfall of 60.58 inches, and Hurricane Hiki, which unloaded as much as 52 inches on Kauai in 1950, are the only two wetter storms.

Even locations near sea level were deluged by extreme rainfalls. Hilo Airport reported 36.76 inches between Aug. 22 and 25, its wettest four-day period on record.

"It was almost biblical proportions," Kai Kahele, a state senator, said.

Although the heaviest rain occurred on the Big Island, a few locations on Maui also posted hefty totals, ranging from 8 inches to 2 feet.

The fact that two of the three most extreme rainstorms from hurricanes have occurred in the past two years is consistent with what scientists expect in a warming climate.