Hawaii residents already reeling from months of explosive eruptions from the Kilauea volcano are bracing for Hurricane Lane, which is bearing down on the US island chain with high winds and lashing rains and the potential to trigger flooding and landslides.
Though the hurricane weakened slightly as it spun across the Pacific Ocean it remains a Category Four storm on Wednesday, the second-strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of wind intensity, according to the US Central Pacific Hurricane Centre.
“The centre of Lane will track dangerously close to the islands Thursday through Saturday,” the center said in an advisory.
“Life threatening impacts are likely in some areas as the hurricane makes its closest approach.”
Lane was about 505 kilometres south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, US forecasters said on Wednesday. It was expected to begin a turn toward the northwest of the island later on Wednesday, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Thursday.
Packing 250 kilometre per hour winds, the storm could dump as much as 50 centimetres of rain over parts of the archipelago, triggering major flash flooding and landslides, according to the National Weather Service.
“The president is deeply concerned for the well-being of all Hawaiians and has directed FEMA and administration officials to remain in close coordination with the state of Hawaii and stand ready to support them in whatever they need,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters on Wednesday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it on its website that it was closely monitoring the progress of the storm.
US Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii were instructed to leave port, a common practice as a hurricane approaches to avoid potential damages.
Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for the storm and said state offices and public and charter schools would be closed until further notice.
The most powerful storm on record hitting Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category Four that made landfall on Kauai island on September 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.