Hurricane Lane Strengthens, Threatening Hawaiian Islands

The National Weather Service said that Hurricane Lane became a Category 4 storm on Wednesday morning, which means that it is likely to cause catastrophic damage with winds up to 155 miles per hour.

National hurricane scientists emphasize that even if the center of the storm - where winds are strongest - doesn't pass directly over the islands, the state could still face serious problems from the storm.

The National Weather Service said tropical-storm-force winds could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon on the Big Island. Roofs and walls will collapse. Unlike Hurricane Hector, which skirted the Hawaiian Islands earlier this month, Lane is projected to veer north-northwest and drench the Aloha State's most populated areas.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the Big Island, including Hilo, and hurricane watches are in place for Maui and Oahu, including Honolulu.

Islanders are being warned the risky Category 4 storm could bring winds with a maximum sustained speed of 150mph and flash flooding as early as Thursday.

Hurricane Lane is tracking closer to the Hawaiian isles.

Lane was about 315 miles (505 km) south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, at 5 a.m. Hawaii time, US forecasters said.

The hurricane threat has forced residents to scramble to stock up on essential items such as water, toilet paper and ramen.

Forecasters warned of large swells that could produce unsafe surf and strong currents along some shorelines, beginning Wednesday on the Big Island.

NASA shared an image of the hurricane from space showing the huge swirling storm clouds closing in on Hawaii.

David Ige issued an emergency proclamation and urged residents to heed evacuation notices and make emergency preparations ahead of Hurricane Lane's landfall.

"Hurricane Lane is a very serious storm that has the potential to do damage and cause harm", said Tom Travis, who heads the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The storm had been moving west, but it is expected to turn northwest towards the state on Wednesday.

Ige granted administrative leave for non-essential state employees in Hawaii and Maui counties, as the state prepares for severe weather conditions resulting from Hurricane Lane.

The east side of the Big Island has taken the brunt from previous storms and is still reeling after lava from an erupting volcano wiped out entire neighborhoods.

"A lot of people are comparing the similarities between Iniki and Lane", Kauai resident Mike Miranda told the AP.

For those on the islands, larger ocean swells will be impacting the beaches before the storm hits.

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.

"Right now, it's nice, everybody's calm", said Carla Andrade, a store clerk.

  • Essie Rivera