Hurricane Lane weakened to a Category 3 storm on Thursday (August 23) but was already lashing Hawaii with high winds and torrential rains, touching off flash floods, landslides and raging surf as residents hunkered down to ride out the storm.
With the storm still spinning in the Pacific Ocean about 140 miles (225 km) southeast of Kailua-Kona, more than a foot (30 cm) of rain had already fallen on the eastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii.
“Lane, while it’s been downgraded, is wide and very moist and it’s going to hang around for a while, because it’s moving slowly. That’s why we’re taking so much precaution here,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
There were no reports of injuries, but at least 14 roads were closed because of flash floods and landslides in the Pacific island state. Tourists were advised to stay away from a popular attraction on the island of Maui called the Seven Sacred Pools, a scenic cluster of waterfalls and grottos.
Moving northwest at 6 miles per hour (10 kph), the tempest was downgraded by the National Weather Service on Thursday afternoon Hawaii time to a Category 3 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, packing sustained winds of 125 mph (200 kph).
“Some (further) weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours but Lane is expected to remain a hurricane as it draws closer to the islands,” the weather service said in an advisory.
The latest predictions showed the eye of the storm twisting west of the Big Island on Friday morning before glancing past Maui and several other islands later in the day on its way to Oahu. But authorities warned that the islands could still expect to be hit hard.
Meanwhile, emergency preparedness personnel from around the United States were preparing to travel to the islands for help in the aftermath of the storm. 36 members of California Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 3, from Menlo Park, were deployed to Oahu on Thursday.