US President Donald Trump on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Hawaii, as powerful Hurricane Lane hit the Big Island, threatening torrential rains and high winds. Hurricane Lane had slowed slightly to a Category 4-storm but maximum sustained winds of 215 kilometers per hour continued.
Hurricane Lane could trigger “excessive rainfall” that would deluge the islands, “leading to significant and life-threatening flash flooding and landslides,” warned the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Earlier, Trump urged Hawaiians to prepare for Lane while the US Navy said it was deploying some of its Hawaii-based ships and submarines to avoid getting trapped when Lane hits. Lane was tracking some 370 kilometers southwest of Kailua-Kona, a town on the west coast of the Big Island.
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Weather experts fear the slow-moving storm would produce large swells in the coming days on shorelines facing west and south that may cause coastal erosion. Sea levels in the area may rise as high as two to four feet above normal tide levels, prompting a storm surge and “large and destructive waves”, they said.
The NOAA said Lane’s center was expected to sweep very close or over Hawaii’s main islands on Thursday or Friday.
FEMA associate administrator Jeff Byard said authorities were bracing for the worst, stocking up on emergency food and water and readying shelters.
“We have emergency food in the form of MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) and water that are currently on all four counties of the state,” he said Byard said FEMA was also working with utility companies to co-ordinate the repair of any damaged power infrastructure.
Declaring a state of Emergency on the Big Island on Tuesday, Governor David Ige said in a statement, “Hurricane Lane is not a well-behaved hurricane... I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with this storm.”
Hurricanes rarely make landfall in Hawaii and the last major storm to strike the state was nearly three decades ago, when Hurricane Iniki barrelled into the island of Kauai, leaving six people dead and causing billions of dollars in damage.
(With AFP inputs)