Although Hurricane Lane has downgraded into a tropical storm as of Saturday, severe flash floods and heavy rains still pose serious threats to residents throughout Hawaii.
Flash flooding has affected most of the Big Island, with heavy rains piling up to 3 feet over the last two days in some parts of the island. National Weather Service said the highest is Waiakea Uka, which has garnered 44.88 inches of rain.
On Saturday morning, NWS issued a flash flood warning for parts of Hilo, Waimea and Volcano. NWS warned residents to avoid walking or driving through water and to move to higher ground immediately.
NWS said that flooding remains the primary concern over the weekend for some islands as of Saturday morning.
Hurricane Lane, expected to be the first hurricane to hit Hawaii since 1992, will bring “life threatening conditions” across the state through Saturday, with heavy flooding rains, damaging winds, storm surge and dangerous surf, According to NWS.
“The heavy rains will lead to landslides and hazardous travel,” the NWS tweeted Thursday.
Emergency workers rescued five people from a flooded home in Hilo on the Big Island where flash flood warnings have gone into effect. No one was injured, the Associated Press reports.
President Trump said Thursday that he has authorized an emergency disaster declaration for Hawaii as the storm bears down.
Hurricane Lane was downgraded to Category 3 storm Thursday around 8 p.m. (E.T.) after the maximum sustained winds slightly dropped. The hurricane warning was replaced with tropical storm warning for Big Island, where flash floods could still do significant harm. The National Weather Service had upgraded Hurricane Lane to a Category 5 storm overnight Tuesday when sustained winds topped 160 mph.
The storm system, which was still offshore as of Thursday evening with maximum sustained winds of about 120 mph, could cause catastrophic damage to areas in its sight lines, including Hawaii and Maui counties. Both of those counties are under a hurricane warning while a hurricane watch is in effect for other parts of the state including Oahu and other smaller islands.
While Hurricane Lane is not expected to hit the islands directly, the drive-by is projected to cut a path glancing just west of the islands, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Some areas could see up to 30 inches of rain, AP reports.
If the storm moves further north, it could bring major hurricane force winds to some islands. FEMA said hurricane force winds could lead to storm surge impacts in affected areas and that the agency is also concerned about ports of entry near Honolulu and other parts of Hawaii.
“It is much too early to confidently determine which, if any, of the main Hawaiian islands will be directly impacted by Lane,” the National Weather Service told the AP.
Potential impacts of the hurricane include hazardous winds, life-threatening flooding rainfall across Maui County and Hawaii County and high surfs along the south and southeast facing shorelines. Leigh Anne Eaton, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Honolulu Forecast Office, said the impacts of the hurricane could stretch through most of Hawaii, potentially affecting over a million people.
Officials issued warnings to those in Hurricane Lane’s path including heeding evacuation notices, checking emergency supplies and moving to higher ground if you live in an area vulnerable to flooding. Hawaii Gov. David Ige urged residents to make emergency preparations and sign up for alerts to get updates about Hurricane Lane’s path. The AP reports that the U.S. Navy is moving ships not going through maintenance out of the state, along with submarines.
The severe weather conditions also stymied travel in Hawaii — with numerous airlines issuing travel advisories to its passengers and waiving change fees.
United, Alaska and Hawaiian Airlines were among the carriers reportedly canceling Hawaii services. United added two additional Friday flights between Honolulu and San Francisco to help people trying to get away from the storm.
And while hurricanes are typically rare in Hawaii — there have four named storms that have touched down there since 1959, two of which were hurricanes — Hurricane Lane comes just two weeks after Hurricane Hector passed by Hawaii. Eaton said Lane appears to be moving closer to the islands than Hector did when it went through the Pacific earlier this month.