HONOLULU (AP) _ Hurricane Rick weakened and was downgraded to a tropical storm, and was expected to stay well away from the Hawaiian Islands, the National Weather Service said today.

Strongest sustained winds were estimated at 70 mph with gusts to 85 mph; a hurricane has sustained winds of at least 74 mph. The hurricane earlier had carried winds of 145 mph with gusts to 170 mph.

At 8 a.m. EDT, the center of the storm was about 650 miles east-northeast of Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii, near latitude 22.8 north and longitude 145.3 west.

It was moving toward the north-northwest at 12 mph, and was expected to continue weakening and gradually veer toward the north, meteorologists said.

On this projected track Rick should stay well away from the islands and have no adverse effects on the tourist mecca's weather, forecasters said.

09-11-85 1126EST