Ana turns into hurricane off the coast of Hawaii
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The powerful Pacific storm churning toward Hawaii became a hurricane but remained far enough away from the islands to allow tourists to make the most of Friday’s remaining sunny weather.
The National Weather Service said Friday that Ana became a Category 1 hurricane about 230 miles (370 kilometers) south of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).
A tropical storm watch was in effect throughout the archipelago.
“Any of the islands could experience tropical storm impacts...so it’s important to still prepare and make plans,” said Chris Brenchley, a weather service meteorologist.
The hurricane was expected to strengthen slightly on Friday and then gradually weaken to become a tropical storm again by early Sunday morning, Brenchley said.
Ana is expected to pass 115 miles (185 kilometers) southwest of the Big Island on Friday night, and to keep the same distance as it passes the rest of the Hawaiian islands over the weekend, but that could change, he said.
Swells were picking up on the Big Island’s south shores Friday afternoon. Waves churned up by Ana could be as high as 20 feet (6 meters) throughout Hawaii’s South shores.
Heavy rainfall may reach the Big Island this afternoon, with about 7 inches (17 centimeters) of rainfall expected. Some isolated areas may get up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency to help the state respond to the storm.
The Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross planned to open evacuation shelters on the Big Island at noon, and recommended that those going to shelters bring a seven-day supply of food and water. Island Air planned to suspend some Maui and Lanai flights Saturday afternoon and Sunday, but airports remained open.
On Oahu, buses and trash pickup remained on their normal schedule. Less rain was expected than previously predicted, but officials remained concerned about high surf, storm surge and flooding, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
Camping permits on Oahu were revoked for the weekend, but most parks remained open except for Hanauma Bay, which will be closed on Sunday.
The storm is moving about 14 mph (22 kph). It will be farther from the coast than predicted, and will be a hurricane for a shorter period than previously thought, forecasters said.
Iniki slammed into Kauai as a Category 4 hurricane in 1992, killing six people and destroying more than 1,400 homes.
The weather service issued a flash flood watch for the entire state from Friday through Sunday, indicating flooding is possible anywhere in the archipelago. The soil in the Kau district on the Big Island already is heavily saturated from recent thunderstorms, raising the risk of flooding there.
Ana is expected to lose some power as it moves northwest along the island chain.
Bussewitz reported from Honolulu. Associated Press Writer Jennifer Kelleher contributed to this report from Honolulu.