Hawaii braces for rain, wind as storm approaches

Associated Press
Diamond Head is shrouded in clouds in Honolulu as Tropical Storm Flossie approaches Hawaii on Monday, July 29, 2013. 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. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
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HONOLULU (AP) — Forecasters monitoring a tropical storm threatening Hawaii were still warning residents and tourists on Monday to brace for possible flooding, wind gusts, mudslides and big waves, even as the storm appeared to weaken.

Earlier, local television stations extended morning news, pre-empting syndicated daytime shows to cover the storm's approach.

But Tropical Storm Flossie faded through the morning, thanks to winds that broke layers of the storm apart, said Tom Evans, acting director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Forecasters expected it to be downgraded to a tropical depression within 24 hours.

Residents and government officials began preparing on Sunday for the storm's arrival. College campuses and courts were closed on Monday on the Big Island, and the Red Cross was gathering volunteers to staff 24 shelters statewide.

The U.S. Coast Guard closed three ports — two on the Big Island where the storm was expected first and a third port on Maui. Airports statewide were open Monday but many flights were being canceled.

Trails and campgrounds also were closed on the Big Island, where state officials warned people to avoid forest areas until Flossie clears.

Officials warned people to cancel beach trips, finish necessary storm preparations and leave their homes if asked by local officials.

"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."

Shortridge said he saw McDonald's employees boarding up windows on Sunday. Store shelves were running low of essentials like bottled water and toilet paper, he said.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie has signed an emergency proclamation that allows the state to use its disaster fund to pay for staff overtime, supplies and other resources. The proclamation also gives state officials the option to call Hawaii National Guard members to duty.

The center of the storm was about 90 miles northeast of Hilo on the Big Island on Monday morning.

Forecasters said the storm would likely bring rain of up to 6 inches on parts of the Big Island and up to 2 inches on other islands. The storm's 40 mph winds will continue to weaken, Evans said.

Evans said tropical storm warnings will remain in effect for all of Hawaii's islands until Flossie is classified as a depression rather than a storm.

The warnings mean the storm represents a threat to life and property.

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Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu, and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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