Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a Category 3 storm late Thursday, yet still was packing a wallop with rain and winds on Hawaii.
The National Weather Service said Lane, packing winds of up to 200 kph (124 mph), was not projected to make a direct hit on the islands yet is expected to pass near or over parts of the main Hawaiian Islands Friday.
The hurricane’s path is putting the Big Island of Hawaii and Maui “in the thick” of the storm, National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Dye said Thursday.
United Airlines announced it was canceling flights to Maui on Friday, when the storm is expected to come closest to the Big Island and Maui. Hawaiian airlines announced it was canceling flights on Friday by one of its commuter partners.
Meteorologists warned even a weakened storm with a glancing blow could cause significant damage.
“Rain has been nonstop for the last half hour or so, and winds are just starting to pick up,’’ Pablo Akira Beimler, who lives on the coast in Honokaa on the Big Island, told the Associated Press on Thursday. “Our usually quiet stream is raging right now.”
The Big Island was hit with more than 50 centimeters (19 inches) of rain in 24 hours, and forecasters warned some areas could see up to 80 centimeters (32 inches) before the storm turns westward over the weekend. The rains caused landslides on the mostly rural island.
Brock Long, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said, “We are extremely concerned about the potentials for inland flooding, landslides occurring and damage to the transportation, communications infrastructure.”
“You do not need a direct strike to have major impacts from a hurricane this strong,’’ Steve Goldstein, a meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, said Thursday.
From Oahu to the Big Island, schools, businesses and government offices closed and residents stocked up on goods and boarded up their homes.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency Thursday and “ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts,” a White House statement said.
Governor David Ige has signed an emergency proclamation to “provide relief for disaster damages, losses and suffering” caused by the hurricane. The proclamation declares the counties of “Hawaii, Maui, Kalawao, Kauai and the City and County of Honolulu disaster areas for the purpose of implementing emergency management functions,” his office said.
Navy moves fleet
The hurricane forced the U.S. Navy to begin moving its ships and submarines away from the islands, Navy Rear Adm. Brian Fort said. He said Wednesday that all ships not currently undergoing maintenance are being moved out of Pearl Harbor and will be positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.
The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. Hawaii rarely gets hit.
But longtime Hawaii residents were reminded of the destruction caused by Hurricane Iniki in 1992 that made landfall on Kauai Island as a Category 4 storm. It killed six people and caused $1.8 billion in damage.