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WEATHER

Hawaii braces for Tropical Storm Flossie

Residents and tourists across Hawaii are bracing for heavy rains and strong winds from Tropical Storm Flossie, while the system weakens as it approaches the state.

National Weather Service officials said they expect people on the Big Island and Maui to see the brunt of the storm on Monday morning, with wind gusts up to 60 mph, possible flooding and waves up to 18 feet high.

Flossie could also bring flash flooding, mudslides, tornadoes and waterspouts, the forecasters said.

The service issued a tropical storm warning for Oahu, Hawaii's most populous island with the city of Honolulu, to go along with previous warnings for the Big Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. The warning means the storm represents a threat to life and property.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation in anticipation of the storm, allowing the state to use its disaster fund to pay for staff overtime, supplies and other resources. The proclamation also allows the state to call Hawaii National Guard members to duty, if necessary.

"The purpose of signing this proclamation is to ensure that state agencies have full powers necessary to best protect and serve the people of Hawaii," Abercrombie said.

The U.S. Coast Guard also ordered three ports closed -- two on the Big Island where the storm is expected first and a third on Maui.

Michael Cantin, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said Sunday that the tropical storm warnings were expanded because the storm strengthened overnight Saturday, before it began weakening Sunday.

Cantin said heavy rains are likely with winds a growing possibility, including gusts able to knock down power poles and blow away loose objects.

"These winds will be strong enough to pick up debris and throw things around," Cantin said.

The service also issued a tropical storm watch for Kauai and Niihau, a less severe notice, asking people to make a plan and pay attention to see if things get worse.

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

Mike McCartney, chief executive of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said Sunday afternoon that some airlines have begun to adjust flights.

"Visitors should contact their airlines and hotels to confirm their travel plans," he said.

State officials on Saturday closed trails and campgrounds on the Big Island, and warned people to avoid forest areas until Flossie clears.

"Hikers, campers or hunters should avoid trails, streams and back-country areas under these conditions," said William Aila Jr., chairman of the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

It's not immediately clear which island faces the most danger, though the Big Island -- the easternmost island in the archipelago -- is likely the first in Flossie's path. Flossie's center was expected to pass near the Big Island and Maui on Monday morning and then south of Oahu several hours later on Monday evening into Tuesday morning.

Cantin said Flossie could stray from its currently projected path up to 60 miles north or south as it crosses the Hawaiian islands and end up some 100 miles away from where forecasters project it to be by the time it passes.

Cantin said the storm is likely to shift south if it gets weaker and north if it gets stronger.

The storm could drop up to 15 inches of rain to windward areas of Maui and Hawaii counties, and 6 to 10 inches in other areas, forecasters said. Up to a foot of rain could fall on windward Oahu and 4 to 8 inches in central and leeward areas. Kauai may see 2 to 4 inches of rain, with up to 6 inches on windward slopes.

Waves of 12 to 18 feet are expected for the Big Island and Maui, with surf of 10 to 15 feet on other islands.

Despite the system weakening, the current forecast keeps Flossie as a tropical storm through Wednesday.