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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Hawaii residents hunker down as Hurricane Lane approaches

Packing 250kph winds, the storm could dump as much as 50cm of rain over parts of the archipelago

This image provided by Nasa on August 22, 2018, shows Hurricane Lane as seen from the International Space Station. NASA via AP
This image provided by Nasa on August 22, 2018, shows Hurricane Lane as seen from the International Space Station. NASA via AP

Hawaii residents reeling from months of eruptions from Kilauea volcano were braced on Wednesday for Hurricane Lane.

The Category 4 storm bore down on the island chain, part of the United States, with the potential to trigger flooding and landslides.

Although the hurricane weakened slightly as it moved across the Pacific, it retained Category 4 strength on Wednesday, the second-highest on the Saffir-Simpson scale of wind intensity, according to the US Central Pacific Hurricane Centre.

“The centre of Lane will track dangerously close to the islands Thursday through Saturday,” the Centre said in an advisory. “Life-threatening impacts are likely in some areas as the hurricane makes its closest approach.”

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Lane was about 505 kilometres south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, US forecasters said. It was expected to start to turn towards the north-west of the island later on Wednesday, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Thursday.

Packing 250kph winds, the storm could dump as much as 50 centimetres of rain over parts of the archipelago, triggering major flash floods and landslides, according to the National Weather Service.

“The president is deeply concerned for the well-being of all Hawaiians and has directed FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] and administration officials to remain in close co-ordination with the state of Hawaii and stand ready to support them in whatever they need,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it on its website that it was closely monitoring the progress of the storm.

US Navy ships and submarines based in Hawaii were instructed to leave port, a common practice as a hurricane approaches, to avoid potential damage.

Hawaii governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for the storm and said state offices and public and charter schools would be closed until further notice.

“Hurricane Lane is not a well- behaved hurricane,” the governor said. “I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with this storm. I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact.”

The most powerful storm on record to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 that made landfall on Kauai island on September 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.

Hawaiians scrambled to prepare for the storm’s arrival. Cars waited in long lines outside petrol stations in Honolulu and people pulled small boats from the water ahead of Lane’s anticipated pounding surf.

Residents on the Big Island are already coping with the three-month eruption of Kilauea. The island is expected to be hit by Lane’s driving rains by late Wednesday afternoon.