(Via Star Advertiser)
Hawaii island is under a tropical storm warning; Maui County and Oahu are under tropical storm watches; and the entire state is covered by a flash flood watch as two hurricanes east of Hilo Wednesday pack a potential one-two punch of heavy rain, high surf and powerful winds.
The warning is in effect for the Big Island and surrounding coastal waters
Both Hurricane Iselle and Hurricane Julio are expected to weaken into tropical storms by the time they near Hawaii waters. But Iselle, which is still forecast to hit the Big Island Thursday, and Julio, which is predicted to veer north of Hawaii island and Maui Sunday, are serious threats that have government officials warning the entire state to prepare for severe weather through the weekend.
Forecasters said rains from the storms could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
Forecasters said those under a tropical storm warning should rapidly complete preparations to protect life and property. A warning is issued when a hazardous weather event is occurring, imminent or likely.
The flash flood watch begins at 4 a.m. Thursday and lasts until 6 a.m. Saturday. The tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are likely within the next 48 hours.
Hurricane Iselle was about 695 miles east-southeast of Hilo at 7 a.m. Wednesday, moving west-northwest at 15 mph, with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph and stronger gusts. Hurricane force winds extend up to 30 miles from the center, and tropical storm force winds extend up to 140 miles.
Iselle weakened slightly overnight, from maximum sustained winds of 100 mph late Tuesday, and is expected to weaken to a strong tropical storm later Wednesday. Its projected track, as of 5 a.m. Wednesday, still has it hitting Hawaii island Thursday, but shifted slightly to the south from late Thursday’s projection.
“The tracks of Iselle and Julio are definitely a call to prepare,” state Emergency Management Administrator Doug Mayne said Tuesday. “Our goal isn’t to scare anyone, but we want to make sure Hawaii’s citizens and visitors have what they need to stay safe and healthy. People should have their emergency plans and seven-day kits in place and consider preparing their homes and businesses for high winds and flooding.”
Stores throughout the state reported long lines as shoppers heeded the advice and bought out supplies of drinking water, toilet paper, flashlights and batteries.
Iselle continues to weaken as it moves over cooler waters and encounters wind shear. The storm’s sustained winds were 140 mph on Monday.
Another storm, Julio, grew into a hurricane late Tuesday and is following a similar path as Iselle. But forecasters expect it to also weaken and become a tropical storm when it nears Hawaii Sunday.
The current track has Iselle moving over Hawaii island Thursday night as a tropical storm with 50 to 60 mph sustained wind and gusts up to 90 mph in Hilo and the Haumakua Coast.
Locally heavy rains statewide of 5 to 8 inches are also expected.
The rains from Iselle could begin to arrive late Wednesday night on the Big Island.
Maui could also start seeing rains starting late Wednesday night with tropical storm conditions possible Thursday night. Forecasters expect frequent showers with locally heavy rainfall possible and east winds of 20 to 25 mph, with gusts to 35 mph. The rains could stick around through the weekend.
Rains on Oahu should begin on Thursday with tropical storm conditions possible Thursday night. Winds of 20 to 25 mph with 40 mph gusts are forecast for Honolulu and south shores of Oahu with heavy showers possible through Friday night.
Forecasters caution that wind and rain projections are only estimates.
“It is vital that you do not focus on the exact forecast track,” forecasters said. “Even small errors in the forecast track can mean major differences in where the worst conditions will occur. Damaging effects can extend far from the center.
“With some uncertainty in the exact track and strength of Iselle, it is still too early to determine which islands are at most risk from iselle. However, the Big Isand and Maui County will be the first areas to experience the impacts of Iselle.”
Meanwhile, to the west of Hawaii, Genevieve strengthened into a hurricane. The storm was about 555 miles west southwest of Johnston Island at 5 a.m. and is not a threat to move back over Hawaii. The storm was moving west northwest at 17 mph.
Maximum sustained winds are at 75 mph and Genevieve is expected to intensify and maintain typhoon status after crossing the international dateline into the northwestern Pacific later Wednesday.
Hawaii has been directly hit by hurricanes only three times since 1950, though the region has had 147 tropical cyclones over that time. The last time Hawaii was hit with a tropical storm or hurricane was in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes in Kauai, Lau said.
“We’ve been lucky so far. So we just need to really take this threat seriously and make sure everybody is prepared,” he said.