HONOLULU – Hawaii residents started to relax Sunday after days of keeping a cautious eye on Hurricane Ana, which was downgraded by late afternoon into a tropical storm.
After churning dangerously close for several days the closest Ana got to Hawaii was about 70 miles southwest of the island Niihau on Sunday, leaving the state soaked but largely unscathed.
"It was a fortuitous track," said Chris Brenchley, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
Preparations for the storm began last week, with residents stocking up on bottled water, shelters opening and various events being canceled. On Sunday afternoon, all but one shelter on Kauai had closed, according to the Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross.
"The good news is, it looks like we've dodged a bullet yet again," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.
A tropical storm watch was canceled Sunday for Oahu, the state's most populous island, but a flash flood warning was extended to 5 p.m. A tropical storm warning remained in effect for Kauai and Niihau, and a hurricane watch has been issued for parts of a few remote northwestern Hawaiian islands, home to a largely uninhabited marine sanctuary.
Gradually turning northwest, Ana is expected to gain strength and become a hurricane again, the weather service said.
There have been no reports of injuries, deaths or significant damage from the storm, which was upgraded to a hurricane as it neared Hawaii late last week. The effects have been limited to heavy rain, large waves and some minor flooding.
Officials, however, asked people to stay home, avoid rain-soaked roads and keep out of the ocean.
"The ocean is angry today," Honolulu Ocean Safety Chief Jim Howe said, noting that there was plenty of brown water from runoff, which attracts sharks.
Honolulu resident Trevor Kaplan and his family took advantage of the lack of crowds Sunday to hike to Manoa Falls. "We think it's the best time to come out ... lots of rain, huge waterfall and no people usually."
Kauai officials remained on alert with the storm warning and flash flood watch in effect. Kauai County Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said some beaches had been closed due to rain and high surf, but the day was otherwise typical.
A few hundred people on the island experienced power outages, but many had their service restored by Sunday morning.
Hawaiian Airlines canceled some morning Kauai flights, leaving about two dozen travelers to wait for an afternoon trip.
There were no reports of problems on Niihau, a privately owned island that's home to fewer than 100 people.
Ana was the second large storm to bear down on Hawaii recently. Tropical Storm Iselle hit the Big Island in August, leaving the Puna region with downed trees and power outages.
Kauai braced for the worst, after forecasters said the storm was coming closer than had been predicted. Many there remember the destruction of Hurricane Iniki, which killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes in 1992. Kevin Adkisson, however, wasn't on Kauai for that storm and had mixed feelings Sunday.
"It's kind of a nonevent so far," he said. "I was kind of looking forward to my first hurricane, but I'm glad it didn't tear anything up or hurt anybody."
Road crews in Kau, a coffee-growing region on the Big Island, reopened Mamalahoa Highway, which had been shut down.
"We just lucked out this one," Darryl Oliveira, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense, said.
It was good to be prepared anyway, said Susanna Ferris, of Honolulu as she watched the waves in Waikiki. "It didn't turn out to be as bad as we thought it would be."