HONOLULU (AP) — A tropical storm making its way toward Hawaii had residents of Maui and the Big Island on Monday bracing for possible flooding, 60 mph wind gusts and waves that could reach as high as 18 feet.
Tropical Storm Flossie could also bring mudslides, tornadoes and waterspouts, forecasters said.
Local television stations statewide extended morning news, pre-empting syndicated daytime shows to cover the storm's approach. With the storm still miles away, footage shown live showed minimal effects on the Big Island and Maui beyond some drizzles and big waves.
But state and local officials repeatedly warned residents and tourists to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
"Please stay home and in a secured, sheltered area," Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said.
The center of the storm was about 90 miles northeast of Hilo on the Big Island on Monday morning. It had sustained winds of about 40 mph but was breaking apart as it approached the islands, creating separate fronts of wind and rain expected to pelt the archipelago.
The National Weather Service on Sunday issued a tropical storm warning for Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island with the city of Honolulu, to go along with previous warnings for the Big Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. It later issued a warning for Kauai and Niihau, saying a small change in Flossie's track could result in higher winds.
The warnings mean the storm represents a threat to life and property.
"For the folks on the Big Island and Maui, if you're preparing your home, you should be rushing those preparations to completion," said Michael Cantin, a warning coordination meteorologist with the service in Honolulu.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation in anticipation of the storm, allowing the state to use its disaster fund to pay for staff overtime, supplies and other resources. The proclamation also allows the state to call Hawaii National Guard members to duty, if necessary.
Although the storm had weakened somewhat by Monday, the weather service warned that it could remain a threat through Wednesday.
"I woke up to blue skies. It was just a beautiful day out," Ian Shortridge, 22, of Kealakekua, on the west side of the Big Island, said Monday. "It hasn't rained all morning. We are waiting for the rain."
Despite the lack of action, people were busy preparing on Sunday, Shortridge said. He was having lunch at a McDonald's restaurant, when he started to hear drilling and saw that employees were boarding up the windows. Store shelves were running low of essentials like bottled water and toilet paper, he said.
Television footage aired on Hawaii News Now from Maui showed high surf breaking on rocks near Hana at around 7 a.m. local time. Forecasters also reported dangerous waves hitting the eastern shores of the Big Island.
Cantin said wind gusts likely will be able to knock down power poles and blow away loose objects. He said people should be careful of trying to walk or drive across water if floods happen.
"It takes about 6 inches of water to knock you off your feet ... 12 inches to move a vehicle," he said.
Officials warned people to cancel beach trips, finish necessary storm preparations and evacuate if asked by local officials.
The U.S. Coast Guard has closed three ports — two on the Big Island where the storm was expected first and a third port on Maui. College campuses and courts were also to be closed Monday on the Big Island. The Red Cross was gathering volunteers to staff 24 shelters statewide. There were five people at the Big Island's nine shelters on Monday morning, said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County Civil Defense director.
Mike McCartney, chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said some airlines have begun to adjust flights and visitors should double-check plans. Airports statewide were open Monday but many flights were being canceled.
Trails and campgrounds were closed on the Big Island, where state officials warned people to avoid forest areas until Flossie clears.
The storm is expected to drop 6 inches to 10 inches of rain, with higher amounts on the eastern side and less on the western side of islands.
Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia
Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
- Natural Phenomena
- Nature & Environment