HONOLULU (CBS News/AP) — Hawaii residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies as they faced the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and high surf as a powerful hurricane continued to churn toward the state. Hurricane Lane weakened slightly on Wednesday to a Category 4 storm, but forecasters warned it remained a threat to the entire island chain, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV reported.
A hurricane warning in effect for Hawaii’s Big Island was extended Wednesday to the island of Maui, The National Weather Service said. National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Dye said the storm was 320 miles southeast of Hilo shortly before 5:30 a.m. local time and that it was moving northwest at about 9 mph.
Dye said rain associated with the hurricane has started to show up on radar off the Big Island of Hawaii and offshore buoys were detecting higher than normal waves.
The weather service said tropical-storm-force winds could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon or evening on the Big Island.
Lane had previously crossed the Category 5 line. “It’s one of only two recorded Category 5 hurricanes to pass within 350 miles of the Big Island’s South Point,” KGMB reported. “The last: Hurricane John in 1994.”
An aircraft with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division flew into the storm as it reached Category-5 strength, recording video of the hurricane’s eye.
NASA shared an image of the hurricane from space showing the huge swirling storm clouds closing in on Hawaii.
On Tuesday, the weather service issued a hurricane warning for the Big Island and a hurricane watch for Oahu, Maui and other smaller islands.
“On its forecast track, the center of Lane will move very close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands from Thursday-Saturday. … Slow weakening is forecast … but Lane is forecast to remain a dangerous hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands,” the weather service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, in Honolulu, warned late Tuesday.
The center said Lane’s heavy rain and strong winds could bring heavy swells, flash flooding and landslides. Even if the center of Lane doesn’t make landfall, the islands could be walloped with rain and wind.
Public schools on the Big Island and in Maui County were closed Wednesday until further notice.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige is allowing non-essential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave from Wednesday to Friday as Hurricane Lane approaches. Employees on Hawaii and Maui islands who work in disaster response as well as in hospitals and prisons are required to report to their jobs, the governor said.
Longtime Hawaii residents recalled a devastating 1992 hurricane as they prepared for Hurricane Lane.
Kauai resident Mike Miranda was 12 when Hurricane Iniki struck the island 26 years ago. “A lot of people are comparing the similarities between Iniki and Lane,” he said.
Iniki’s turn into the islands was sudden, he recalled.
“I remember how very little rain fell. But I remember the wind being the strongest force of nature I’ve ever witnessed and probably the scariest sounds I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said. Utility poles were down all over the island, and his 7th-grade classes were held in Army tents for several months.
Miranda said his family is used to preparing for hurricane season.
“A lot of people who moved here and never experienced a hurricane. They’re the ones rushing to the store,” he said.
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