HONOLULU (Reuters) – Hawaii residents already reeling from months of explosive eruptions from Kilauea volcano braced on Wednesday for Hurricane Lane, which was bearing down on the U.S. 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 remained a Category 4 storm, the second-strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of wind intensity, according to the U.S. Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
“The center of Lane will track dangerously close to the islands Thursday through Saturday,” the centre said in an advisory. “Life threatening impacts are likely in some areas as the hurricane makes its closest approach.”
Lane was about 315 miles (505 km) south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, U.S. forecasters said. 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 155-mile per hour (250 km/h) winds, the storm could dump as much as 20 inches (50 cm) 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.
U.S. 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.
“Hurricane Lane is not a well- behaved hurricane,” the governor said in his emergency proclamation. “I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with this storm. I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact.”
The most powerful storm on record hitting Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 that made landfall on Kauai island on Sept. 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.
Hawaiians scrambled to prepare for the storm’s arrival. Cars waited in long lines outside gasoline stations in Honolulu and people could be seen pulling small boats from the water ahead of Lane’s expected pounding surf.
Residents are already coping with the three-month eruption of Kilauea on the Big Island, which was expected to start feeling the force of Lane’s driving rains by late Wednesday afternoon.