Hurricane Felicia became a Category 4 storm Friday as it marched west toward the Hawaiian Islands.
The tropical cyclone was packing 130 mph winds as it churned west at 9 mph, according to Miami-based National Hurricane Center forecasters. As of 5 p.m., it was located about 2,126 miles east-southeast of the Big Island.
Though a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Felicia remained a small tropical cyclone Friday with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 60 miles.
Some fluctuations in strength were forecast Friday as the hurricane traversed a series of small cool and warm ocean currents or eddies. Weakening prompted by cool ocean upwelling beneath the hurricane and very dry mid-level air was expected to begin no later than early Saturday, forecasters said.
“However, the rate of weakening is forecast to be slower than normal due to expected low vertical wind shear (<10 kt) conditions and Felicia’s stable, annular structure,” forecasters wrote.
Felicia was forecast to be downgraded to a Category 3 storm, which is still a major hurricane, overnight, and by Sunday night down to a Category 2 hurricane packing 100 mph winds.
By Wednesday, as Felicia crosses into the Central Pacific, the cyclone is expected to be a tropical storm packing 60 mph winds just over 1,000 miles southeast of Hilo.
The National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Warning Center predicted a below-average hurricane season this year.
Two to five tropical cyclones — a category that includes depressions, storms and hurricanes — were expected to pass through the basin this year. The 2021 season started June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, though tropical cyclones have formed outside that period.
There are four or five tropical cyclones in a near-normal season. August and September are historically active months for storms in the region.
Last year, only two tropical cyclones developed in the Central Pacific. Neither made direct landfall in Hawaii, but Hurricane Douglas swirled just offshore in July.
Officials encourage people to prepare 14-day emergency kits that include food, water and other supplies.