Hawaii residents on alert as Hurricane Lane gathers strength

Flood watches are in place for parts of southern Wisconsin on Tuesday

The US Central Pacific Hurricane Center on Wednesday downgraded Hurricane Lane to a Category 4, the second-strongest on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of wind intensity.

Iniki's unexpected movement meant the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) failed to warn Hawaiians until less than 24 hours before it hit, with forecasters incorrectly assuming the system would pass south of the islands.

Nonetheless, the unpredictability of the storm and the possibility of severe winds, flooding, power outages and other damage had the state on edge.

"Tropical storm conditions are expected within the Hurricane Warning area beginning late tonight into early Thursday morning", forecasters say, "with hurricane conditions expected somewhere within the warning area on Thursday".

After hitting the Big Island, the storm is expected to move north over the islands of Maui, Lanai and Moloka'i, which were all under hurricane and flash flood watches. Hurricane watches cover Oahu and Kauai, where conditions are expected to deteriorate Thursday night into Friday morning. But "Lane is forecast to remain a unsafe hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands", the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, based in Honolulu, said.

A very big storm is coming for Hawaii, an island state that's largely avoided encounters with major cyclones in recent memory.

Lane could become the first hurricane to directly make landfall in Honolulu since Hawaii became a state, Axios reported.

"Hurricane Lane is not a well-behaved hurricane", he said during a press conference.


All public and charter schools in the two counties will be closed Wednesday until further notice, the Hawaii State Department of Education said.

Officials have encouraged residents to stock up on supplies and prepare their homes for the storm, creating scenes more familiar in southeastern US states.

Some customers were buying cases of bottled water at Island Grocery Depot in Kahului, Maui, manager Brian Arakaki said.

With the storm's impending arrival, Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for Kona Community and Kohala hospitals, said staff has been working to ensure both facilities are ready should people need care.

"We have neighbors all around our house and a lot of their items are just outside, not properly secured", she said. He planned to call in more workers to cope with an expected afternoon rush. "They're the ones rushing to the store", he said.

American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines issued travel advisories to customers flying to or from Hawaii.

"(I'm) filling up my bathtub with some water, hoping to board up my main windows in time", a shopper on the Big Island, Shana Bartolome, told CNN affiliate KHON on Tuesday.

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