Flash floods, landslides, damaging winds and towering surf are thrashing Hawaii as Hurricane Lane passes just west of the U.S state’s islands.
Residents and tourists are hunkering down in their homes and hotel rooms with stockpiles of water and supplies as forecasters report the hurricane will move over Hawaii’s main islands on Friday or Saturday.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Centre reported Hurricane Lane was less than 280 kilometres southwest of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii and 386 kilometres south of Honolulu, Hawaii on Friday night.
US President Donald Trump has authorised an emergency disaster declaration to Hawaii and has told Hawaiians they are in his thoughts in a post on Twitter.
I have authorized an emergency disaster declaration to provide Hawaii the necessary support ahead of #HurricaneLane. Our teams are closely coordinating with the state and local authorities. You are in our thoughts! https://t.co/lrhwbdUavj
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2018
On Friday, the United States National Weather Service downgraded Hurricane Lane to a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 193 kilometres per hour, previously graded as a Category 4 and Category 5 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale in recent days.
The latest predictions show the eye of the storm twisting west of the Big Island of Hawaii on Friday morning (Saturday local time), before glancing past Maui and several other islands later in the day, on its way to Oahu.
But authorities have warned Hurricane Lane was moving erratically and that the islands could still expect to be hit hard by the erratic hurricane.
“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, situated on Oahu.
The storm has already lashed the largest of Hawaii’s five islands, called Hawaii or the Big Island, with nearly 50 centimetres of rain in the last 24 hours and flood warnings are still in place.
County of Hawaii Civil Defence unit information specialist Kelly Wooten told The New Daily about nine people had taken refuge in shelters in Hilo, Hawaii due to the floods.
Ms Wooten said the Big Island had received more than a foot of rain in the last 24 hours and was expecting more rain into the evening and tomorrow.
“There’s a lot of pooling of water on the roads, washing out in certain areas as well as landslides that are putting debris on the roads prompting multiple road closures as well,” she said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Dye told the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Hurricane Lane was now moving closer and would soon put the Big Island and the island of Maui “in the thick” of the storm
The national weather service has also extended the flash flooding warning for the Big Island.
Hawaiian journalist Hannah Palaniuk posted a video on Twitter of the 24-metre high Rainbow Falls, just outside of Hilo, as the island received more than seven to eight centimetres of rain each hour on Friday.
— Hannah Palaniuk (@HannahPalaniuk) August 23, 2018
NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold tweeted two photographs on August 22 showing the view of Hurricane Lane from the International Space Station.
Mr Arnold and his crew said he sent “much aloha to everyone there” alongside an image of the storm.
— Andrew Malcolm (@AHMalcolm) August 23, 2018
The hurricane has been called the “next disaster” for Hawaii after a slew of natural events, as well as an errant alert that a ballistic missile was headed for Hawaii.
The island of Kauai recorded 127 centimetres of rain in one day, flooding parts of the island in April this year, and a slow-motion eruption of the Kilauea volcano’s lava destroyed parts of the Big Island