KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) — The powerful Pacific storm churning toward Hawaii became a hurricane but remained far enough away from the islands to allow tourists to make the most of Friday’s remaining sunny weather.
The National Weather Service said Friday that Ana became a Category 1 hurricane about 230 miles south of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.
A tropical storm watch was in effect throughout the archipelago.
“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.
The hurricane was expected to strengthen slightly on Friday and then gradually weaken to become a tropical storm again by early Sunday morning, Brenchley said.
Ana is expected to pass 115 miles southwest of the Big Island on Friday night, and to keep the same distance as it passes the rest of the Hawaiian islands over the weekend, but that could change, he said.
Swells were picking up on the Big Island’s south shores Friday afternoon, with 15-foot waves seen in Pohoiki Bay. Waves churned up by Ana could be as high as 10 to 20 feet throughout Hawaii’s South shores.
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.”
Heavy rainfall may reach the Big Island this afternoon, with about 6 to 8 inches of rainfall expected. Some isolated areas may get up to a foot of rain.
Vicky Hall, from Manchester, England, had to leave a Big Island campground this morning at 8 a.m. 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 open evacuation shelters on the Big Island at noon, and recommended that those going to shelters bring a seven-day supply of food and water. 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.
The storm is moving about 14 miles per hour. It will be farther from the coast than predicted, and will be a hurricane for a shorter period than previously thought, forecasters said.
Iniki slammed into Kauai as a Category 4 hurricane in 1992, killing six people and destroying more than 1,400 homes.
The weather service issued a flash flood watch for the entire state from Friday through Sunday, indicating flooding is possible anywhere in the archipelago. The soil in the Kau district on the Big Island already is heavily saturated from recent thunderstorms, raising the risk of flooding there.
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 contributed to this report from Honolulu.
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