HAWAII — Hurricane Lane weakened as it marched toward Hawaii, but it’s list of life-threatening calamities is still going strong.
The hurricane was downgraded to a Category 3 storm Thursday, even as it unleashed torrential rainfall, flooding and landslides over parts of Hawaii’s Big Island, along with dangerous surf and high winds. The conditions continued early Friday.
Lane is forecast to bring even more damage as its center gets closer Friday and Saturday. While it’s unclear whether the islands will get a direct hit, the hurricane will bring “significant and life-threatening flash flooding and landslides,” the National Weather Service said.
The center of the hurricane “will move over, or dangerously close” to parts of Hawaii islands Friday, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. It was about 230 miles (370 km) south of Honolulu early Friday, and could become the first major cyclone to make landfall in the state in 26 years.
“Some weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, but Lane is expected to remain a hurricane as it approaches the islands,” the center said.
Hawaii Islands include Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui, and the island of Hawaii, which is often referred to as the Big Island.
‘It’s going to hang around for a while’
As the hurricane got closer to Hawaii, Gov. David Ige urged residents to set aside two weeks’ worth of food, water and other necessities.
The hurricane’s potential for heavy rainfall will continue into next week as it begins to track westward and away from the state, the governor said.
“Lane, while it has been downgraded, is wide and very moist. And it’s going to hang around for a while as it moves because it is moving slowly,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. “And that is why we are taking so much precaution here.”
Ryan Leinbach of Kailua-Kona said he “brought everything that might fly” indoors and stocked up on wine, cheese and coffee.
“Just hanging out until this evening when things are really supposed to happen,” he said Thursday.
Hilo resident Regina Lola Miller stayed indoors and kept a wary eye on a nearby stream.
“We are just trying to be cautious and be prepared,” she said. “If the pond overflows, then it will be bad. It has before.”
In some areas, officials are blaring sirens and blasting speakers to warn residents of the dangers.
Despite the flooding and landslides making headlines nationwide, some tourists were unfazed, with nearly 300,000 currently visiting the state, US Sen. Mazie Hirono said Thursday.
State and government officials prepare
State and federal officials are bracing for the storm, with Hawaii opening emergency shelters, closing some public schools for the rest of the week, and placing nonessential government workers on leave.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has prepared food, water, generators and other commodities to help with emergency resources.
Some hospitals increased their weekend staffing and postponed elective procedures and surgeries Friday and Saturday in preparation for the influx of patients expected during natural disasters
“If it’s really catastrophic, you see things such as dehydration, exhaustion, infections,” Dr. Leslie Chun of the Queen’s Medical Center told CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now.
Up to 30 inches of rain expected
Between 10-30 inches of rain is forecast in some areas through the weekend, which could trigger even more landslides in parts of the Big Island.
A mix of a storm surge and waves will raise water levels well above normal tide levels, with surf heights of between 10 – 20 feet forecast along some coasts.
“This is expected to result in significant beach erosion and overwash onto vulnerable coastal roadways today through Saturday as Lane makes its closest approach,” Ige said.
The outer bands of the Category 3 cyclone pummeled Big Island on Thursday, triggering landslides and causing flooding that forced officials to close some roads. More than 19 inches of rain fell on a northeastern section of the Big Island within a 24-hour period, the National Weather Service said.
Excessive rainfall will lead to dangerous flash flooding, landslides and mudslides in areas that are already drenched. Forecasters believe the storm will turn west — away from the islands — but are uncertain when that will happen.
Flooding near Hilo led to voluntary evacuations, Hawaii county officials said. On one street, police and fire personnel are going house-to-house warning residents of severe flooding and recommending evacuation.
“If residents do not evacuate, first responders may not be able to reach them if the situation becomes too hazardous,” the statement said.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the Big Island as well as Maui County and Oahu — meaning hurricane conditions are expected there. Kauai and Niihau are under a hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible and that winds of at least 39 mph are anticipated in the comings days.
Lane’s landfall would be rare
The Central Pacific gets few hurricanes and tropical storms; the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific usually see many more named storms.
Hawaii is a small target in a vast ocean, and isn’t often threatened. Hawaii gets a named storm within 60 miles of its coastline about once every four years on average, forecasters say.
Lane could become a further rarity if its center crosses land. Only two hurricanes have made landfall in Hawaii since the 1950s: Hurricane Dot in 1959, and Hurricane Iniki in 1992.