Douglas downgraded to tropical storm after skirting Hawaii

·2 min read

Honolulu (AFP) - Hurricane Douglas was downgraded on Monday as it narrowly avoided the Hawaiian coast, after fears it would become only the third storm of its size to make landfall on the Pacific island chain since records began.

The tropical storm was moving westward past the Hawaiian islands, packing winds of 70 miles (110 kilometers) per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

It is rare for severe storms to make landfall in Hawaii, which has been hit by hurricanes just twice in its modern history -- Dot in 1959 and Iniki in 1992.

Although Douglas stayed off the coast, it still made history -- no hurricane has ever taken a path closer to Oahu island since the government started keeping records in the 1950s, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

The National Weather Service said the storm's center passed just 25 miles north of Oahu. The last hurricane to make such a close approach was Dot, passing 60 miles southwest.

Evacuation centers had been opened over the weekend in Honolulu, a city of 350,000, but fears of coronavirus spread made them "a last resort," the city's mayor Kurt Caldwell said.

"If you are sheltering away from home today, please remember that #COVID19 is not taking a break for the storm," Caldwell tweeted Sunday evening.

Large swells generated by Douglas were expected to hit the islands into Monday, raising the risk of damage from high surf to shoreline property.

Hurricane conditions were expected across northern Kauai, including up to six inches of rain, which posed a threat of flash floods and landslides.

- Heavy rains, flooding in Mexico -

Hurricane Hanna meanwhile was downgraded to a tropical depression, bringing heavy rain and the threat of flash floods to northeastern Mexico after lashing Texas.

Civil protection head David Leon Romero said the storm had "left a lot of rain in Mexican territory," with landslides, flooding and power outages across the region.

Nearly 1,200 people were riding out the storm in temporary shelters and 80 had been rescued from dangerous river flows, he added.

Mexico reported at least two dead and four missing on Monday evening after Hanna swept through three northeastern states, the national coordinator of civil protection said.

Hanna was still packing winds of around 25 miles (35 kilometers) an hour as of early Monday, the NHC said.

Damage in Texas appeared limited after Hanna's Saturday arrival on Padre Island, a 110-mile-long barrier island off the state coast.

Images captured by CBS showed roads and a caravan park in the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi strewn with debris and downed trees.

Some motorists braved flooded roads, while one hardy storm-watcher was seen calmly taking pictures of the beach from a wind-swept promenade.