Hurricane watch issued for Hawaii's Big Island, Maui

Hurricane watch issued for Hawaii's Big Island, Maui

Hurricane watch issued for Hawaii's Big Island, Maui

The latest predictions from the weather service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center show the eye of the storm glancing past Maui and several other islands on Friday on its way toward Oahu.

The state Department of Education says schools are expected to re-open on Monday.

As of Monday evening, Lane was about 515 miles southeast of Hilo, packing maximum sustained winds of 130 miles an hour with higher gusts and moving to the west at 14 mph.

In Maui, a fast-growing wildfire forced the evacuation of homes and an emergency shelter set up for the storm in Lahaina, where no rain was yet falling, officials said.

Hawaii residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies as they faced the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and high surf as a strengthening hurricane continued to churn toward the state.

Shelters were being readied to open on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Officials urged those needing the Molokai shelter to get there soon because of concerns that the main highway on the island's south coast could become impassable.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Tom Travis said there's not enough shelter space statewide and advised people who were not in flood zones to stay home.

Some Hawaii public schools will be closed until further notice as a hurricane heads toward the state. Hurricane conditions were possible over Kauai into Saturday, according to forecasts. Officials were also working to help Hawaii's sizeable homeless population, many of whom live near beaches and streams that could flood.

After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico previous year, a FEMA report noted that one of its main issues was not having enough generators and other emergency aid on the island before the storm. All vessels not now undergoing maintenance were being positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.

All Hawaii-based Navy aircraft will be kept in hangars or flown to other airfields to avoid the storm.

Unlike Florida or Texas, where residents can get in their cars and drive hundreds of miles to safety, people in Hawaii are confined to the islands and can't outrun the powerful winds and driving rain.

The National Weather Service says the hurricane will still pack a wallop for Hawaii on Thursday before gradually slowing over the next two days. Hawaii's Big Island has a tropical storm warning.

He says it may diminish to a Category 3 by Thursday afternoon but that would still be a major hurricane.

As of 5 a.m. Hawaii time (11 a.m. EDT/1500 GMT), Lane was moving north at 5 mph (7 kph) and was about 180 miles (290 km) south of Honolulu, the service said.

The service says the hurricane is still forecast to be a unsafe hurricane as it gets closer to the islands. Kauai bore the brunt of Iniki in 1992, and that storm is top of mind for residents preparing to weather Lane in the coming days.

"We're telling everybody to take the storm seriously, make your final preparations, and be prepared to ride out what is going to be a prolonged rain event", said Andrew Pereira, communications director for the city and county of the state capital, Honolulu. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months, and most of an area hit by a Category 5 hurricane will be uninhabitable for weeks or months, the weather service added.

Earlier Tuesday, the weather service issued a hurricane watch for Maui and other smaller islands, meaning tropical storm-force winds, excessive rain and large swells could arrive starting Wednesday.

The storm was expected to continue tracking slowly northward and weaken over the next 12 hours before trade winds begin pushing it sharply off to the west and away from land on Saturday, Weather Service forecaster Leigh Anne Eaton told a news conference in Honolulu.

But the agency cautioned, "Lane is forecast to remain a unsafe hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands".

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