KAILUA-KONA — Hurricane Lane weakened some this morning as the still-Category 4 storm creeped closer to the Hawaiian Islands.
As of 8 a.m. today, Lane featured 130 mph winds with higher gusts some 205 miles south-southwest of Kailua-Kona and 170 miles southwest of South Point, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the center of Lane and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 140 miles.
The storm was headed northwest at 7 mph. Forecasters expect the storm to make a turn toward the north today. A turn back toward the west is expected Saturday.
Steady weakening is forecast during the next few days, but Lane is expected to remain a hurricane.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim meanwhile stressed Wednesday that West Hawaii residents need to remain vigilant as Hurricane Lane remained on course to pass very close to the Hawaiian Islands.
“I want the residents of West Hawaii to know that, please, the situation is still very uncertain, unstable. There’s a possibility of heavy rain, flooding, and the wind factor is there, but our greatest concern is flooding and damaging surf and surge,” Kim said. “Please remain on the alert.”
The Big Island began seeing Lane’s first effects Wednesday morning with the storm’s outer bands bringing showers to areas of the island. The eastern side of the island picked up nearly 3 inches of rain in three hours, while there was light rain in other areas, like Kailua-Kona.
Current forecast models predict, for the most part, 20-30 mph winds with gusts reaching 55 mph for leeward areas of Hawaii Island. The potential remains for winds to reach up to 73 mph in area. Rainfall accumulations are expected to range from 4 inches to 2 feet, depending on the area.
For Kailua-Kona, the center said there’s a 30 percent chance of 39 mph winds, 7 percent chance of 57 mph winds and a 2 percent chance of hurricane-force winds of 74 mph or higher from 4 a.m. to 4 p.m. today. During the following 12 hours, there’s a 6 percent chance of 39 mph winds, 5 percent chance of 57 mph winds and 1 percent chance of 74 mph winds.
A hurricane warning remained in effect for Hawaii and Maui counties and Oahu while a hurricane watch was posted for Kauai and Niihau as of press time Wednesday.
A high surf warning is also in effect until 6 a.m. Friday for south-facing shores of Hawaii Island. Wave heights of 15 to 20 feet are forecast. A storm surge of up to 4 feet is anticipated.
Should the storm pass Hawaii Island, leaving it relatively unscathed, and hit other islands, Kim said Hawaii County is ready to assist its brothers and sisters across the state.
“That’s an always – that is an always,” Kim said. … “All counties lay hand to each other, that would be an automatic.”
Meanwhile, Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers were sent to Kona Wednesday afternoon out of precaution, Kim said. The troops had been stationed in Puna amid Kilauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone eruption.
“We’ve moved the National Guard there because we’re still trying to make a decision in regards to should any of the projected possibilities materialize we need to act before then,” Kim said. “That decision (to act) has not been made, but it is a possibility.”
The troops will assist in any manner requested, from mass evacuation to traffic control, Kim said.
“They will be there and await requests of specific assignments,” he added.
Hawaii County Civil Defense also announced the opening Wednesday of emergency shelters in North Kohala, South Kohala, North Kona and South Kona due to the potential effects of Hurricane Lane. No mandatory evacuation was ordered.
The following shelters were open as of press time: Konawaena High School Gym; Hookena Elementary School; Kamehameha Park Hisaoka Gym (pet friendly); Kealakehe High School (pet friendly); and Waikoloa Elementary & Middle School.
Also Wednesday, Gov. David Ige said President Donald Trump approved a request for emergency aid as the cyclone made its approach Wednesday. The declaration means Hawaii will have easy access to federal resources as communities recover from any damage or losses caused by the hurricane.
Ige and Kim on Tuesday signed emergency proclamations for the state and county, respectively.
Though the storm loomed, the seriousness of the day was briefly interrupted Wednesday morning when staff surprised Kim with a cake and candles to celebrate his 79th birthday.
“Today was one of my funniest days ever in a long time,” he said, noting that the governor and others wished him a happy birthday during the conference.
Public schools, charter schools and libraries are closed for the rest of the week. Also closed are county beach parks from South Point to Mahukona in North Kohala, as well as South Point. In addition, all nonemergency county operations are suspended today. Hele-On bus service will continue today.
-Akoni Pule Highway is closed due to a landslide near mile marker 24 in North Kohala.