Hurricane Madeline, now a major Category 3 storm, is expected to weaken but likely to remain a hurricane as it passes the state, said meteorologist Chevy Chevalier of the National Weather Service on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for Hawaii's Big Island Tuesday afternoon for hurricane conditions that are expected within the next 36 hours.
Forecasters are urging residents and visitors to rush through preparations to protect their lives and property.
Forecasters are expecting Madeline to pass just south of the Big Island around 2 a.m. Thursday, but if the storm track shifts slightly to the north, it could hit land.
Chevalier says the last hurricane to make landfall in Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which hit Kauai Island.
"Hopefully our roofs stay on, and our houses don't float way or get blown away," Big Island resident Mitzi Bettencourt, who boarded up walls of glass windows at her brother's oceanfront home, told the Associated Press. "It's like, 'Oh my God, are we going to get flattened or what?'"
Bettencourt, who lives in a subdivision called Kapoho Vacationland, manages several vacation rental properties and has her own home to worry about, which sits a few blocks from the ocean. She and her neighbors were stocking their pantries, stowing away lawn furniture and preparing for power outages.
A second Pacific hurricane, called Lester, is still far from Hawaii, and it is expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it passes the state, Chevalier said.
Hawaii County, which covers the Big Island, urged residents to restock their emergency kits with a flashlight, fresh batteries, cash and first aid supplies.
The county recommended that residents create evacuation plans and secure outdoor furniture.
The islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai were under a tropical storm watch, but there were no alerts for Oahu or Kauai.
Hawaiian Airlines said customers holding tickets to or from Hawaii's Big Island from Aug. 31 until Sept. 1 would be allowed a one-time reservation change without incurring a fee.
President Obama is scheduled to visit Oahu this week. The White House said Tuesday it is tracking the weather developments closely, but it doesn't anticipate changing Obama's schedule.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.