Hurricane Lane barreled toward Hawaii on Friday, dumping torrential rains that caused flooding on the Big Island as people stocked up on supplies and piled sandbags to shield oceanfront businesses against the increasingly violent surf.
The Category 2 storm was expected to turn west on Saturday before reaching the islands and skirting Oahu — the state’s most populated island. Even without making a direct hit, the system threatened to bring a huge storm surge, high wind, and heavy rain, forecasters said.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty in this forecast,” warned Federal Emergency Management Administrator Brock Long, explaining that the rain would continue for the next two to three days. “We hope all citizens are heeding the warning that local officials are putting out.”
On Oahu, gusts rattled windows and roofs in Honolulu’s hillside neighborhood of Nuuanu overnight and scattered tree branches, palm fronds and at least one electrical line across roadways.
A brush fire on the island of Maui forced the relocation of a hurricane shelter in Lahaina as nearby residents were evacuated. Maui fire officials say the fire jumped a highway and was approaching a gas station. The flames spread to 300 acres (121 hectares), and a woman who was burned in the hands and legs was flown to Honolulu, Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said.
The flooding on the Big Island was fueled by as much as 35 inches (89 centimeters) of rain that fell in 48 hours. National Weather Service meteorologist Chevy Chevalier described flooding on the Big Island as catastrophic.
“The sponge is full,” he said Friday. “There’s nowhere for the water to go except to pond up and flood these areas.”
At 5 a.m., the center of the hurricane was about 200 miles south of Honolulu.
Police warned tourists to leave the world-famous Waikiki Beach ahead of the storm’s arrival in Honolulu. So far, about 1,500 people, mostly on Oahu, were in emergency shelters, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.
Emergency crews rescued five California tourists from a home they were renting in Hilo after a nearby gulch overflowed and flooded the house on the Big Island.
Suzanne Demerais said a tiny waterfall and small stream were flowing near the home when she first arrived with four friends from the Los Angeles area. But the stream turned into a torrent, and the river rose rapidly over 24 hours.
Hawaii County firefighters, who were in touch with the home’s owner, decided to evacuate the group before the water rose any higher. They floated the five out on their backs, Demerais said.
“It was quite an experience because we weren’t planning to have a hurricane during our vacation time,” Demerais said.
About 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of Hilo, on the state’s most populated island of Oahu, employees of the Sheraton Waikiki resort filled sandbags to protect the oceanfront hotel from surging surf.
Stores along Waikiki’s glitzy Kalakaua Avenue stacked sandbags along the bottom of their glass windows to prepare for flash flooding.
Police on loudspeakers told surfers and swimmers to get out of the water, saying the beach would be closed until further notice.
The Marriott Resort Waikiki Beach in Honolulu designated a ballroom on the third floor as a shelter for guests and began removing lounge chairs from around the pool and bar area.
At the Hilton Hawaiian Village, guest Elisabeth Brinson said hotel staff left a notice that rooms will still have water and phone service, and a backup generator would power one elevator per building in the event of an electrical outage.
Brinson, a native of the United Kingdom now living in Denver, said many shops were closed, and those still open were frantic with people buying food, beer, and water to take back to their rooms.
“We knew it was coming, so I tried to just cram as much as I could into the last few days in anticipation so we could cross things off of our list,” said Brinson, who is used to hurricanes after living in Florida.
United Airlines canceled its Friday flights to and from Maui. The airline added two more flights from Honolulu to San Francisco on Thursday to help transport people off the islands.
Hawaiian Airlines canceled all Friday flights by its commuter carrier, Ohana by Hawaiian.
The biggest hotels were confident they could keep their guests safe as long as they stay inside, said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association.
“The only concern is those that venture outside of the properties, that would like to hike on a day like this or who would like to still go into the ocean and see what it’s like to take a swim or surf in these kinds of waters,” Hannemann said.
The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. Hawaii rarely gets hit. The last major storm to hit was Iniki in 1992. Others have come close in recent years.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency moved several container ships packed with food, water, generators and other supplies into the region ahead of Hurricane Hector, which skirted past the islands more than a week ago, Long said. Warehouses were double-stocked with emergency supplies, and federal officials were working with grocers to ensure stores would have enough food.
This article was written by Audrey McAvoy and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.