Hawaii residents brace for huge waves, high winds as Hurricane Ana passes south of islands

Hurricane Ana was carving a path just south of Hawaii, sending strong waves pounding some shorelines and producing strong enough winds for officials to urge caution.

The center of the powerful Pacific storm was expected to remain 150 miles away from the Big Island as it passed late Friday night.

Forecasters late Friday said there was little chance for hurricane conditions on the islands, but a tropical storm watch remained in effect throughout the archipelago and winds were expected to reach nearly 40 mph.

"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.

Waves were expected to crest to 10 to 15 feet on both the North and South shores of Hawaii's islands late Saturday and to remain tall through Sunday.

The National Weather Service said Friday that Ana became a Category 1 hurricane about 230 miles south of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. It was churning along its course at 13 mph.

The hurricane was expected to gradually weaken to become a tropical storm again by early Sunday morning, Brenchley said.

Swells were picking up on the Big Island's south shores Friday afternoon, with 15-foot waves seen in Pohoiki Bay.

But the waves remained small on Oahu on Friday morning, where surfers and paddle boarders caught a few rides at Waikiki Beach.

Tourists Kim and Adam Stocker from New Hampshire were exploring the Big Island's West side, and weren't going to let a storm interfere with their first trip to Hawaii.

"It's like 'I don't care, I'm going. Hurricane or not," said Adam Stocker, 49. "I got the time off. It's already paid for."

About 6 to 8 inches of rainfall were expected, although some isolated areas could get up to a foot of rain.

Vicky Hall, from Manchester, England, had to leave a Big Island campground Friday morning because it closed for the storm. Her fiance and friends booked two nights lodging so they would have a place to spend the night.

She doesn't get to experience tropical storms at home so it's a little exciting.

"We're not worried. We just wish we could go to the beach," said, Hall, 29, while sunbathing on a grassy lawn in the Alii Drive tourist district.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency to help the state respond to the storm.

The Hawaii chapter of the American Red Cross planned to opened evacuation shelters on the Big Island at noon. Island Air planned to suspend its Maui and Lanai flights Saturday afternoon and all flights 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.

"It looks a little better, but we're still preparing for the worst," Caldwell said. "We don't want to scare anybody if unnecessary, but we want to be ready."

Camping permits on Oahu were revoked for the weekend, but most parks remained open except for Hanauma Bay, which will be closed on Sunday.

Iniki slammed into Kauai as a Category 4 hurricane in 1992, killing six people and destroying more than 1,400 homes.

Daniel Martinez, acting superintendent of the Pearl Harbor historical site, recalled that storm.

"When we had Hurricane Iniki here many, many years ago we had that hurricane turning away from us and then turning on us, so everybody who was around at that time remembers that moment."

The weather service issued a flash flood watch for the entire state from Friday through Sunday, indicating flooding is possible anywhere in the archipelago.

Ana (AH - nah) is expected to lose power as it moves northwest along the island chain.


Bussewitz reported from Honolulu. Associated Press writer Jennifer Kelleher and P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report from Honolulu.