Hawaiian Islands on alert for possible Hurricane Lane impacts

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The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday that includes Maui County with Hurricane Lane expected to turn toward the Hawaiian Islands later this week and "come dangerously close to or over the islands".

Hawaii Governor David Ige is allowing non-essential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave from Wednesday to Friday as the hurricane approaches.

According to NOAA's historical hurricane database, only 12 hurricanes have passed within 370 km of the major islands in the Hawaiian chain since 1950, the last of which was 2014's Hurricane Ana.

The storm is now moving westward at 12 miles per hour (19 km/h) and should continue to move west through tonight.

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"Slow weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, but Lane is forecast to remain a unsafe hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands", the center said. It's possible Oahu and Kauai may later be included in a weather service advisory for the hurricane.

Honolulu, the state's largest city and capital, is on the island of O'ahu.

Hurricane Lane intensified to a Category 5 on Tuesday night, threatening to become the first landfalling hurricane in Hawaii in almost three decades. I've not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I've seen with this storm.

Tropical storm conditions will be possible on the Big island later Wednesday, with hurricane conditions possible on Thursday.

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Expect periods of heavy rainfall, especially along the southeast and east facing slopes, the weather service said.

The storm is about 375 miles (605 km) south-southeast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour (260 km/h), the NHC said. There's some uncertainty to Lane's path - whether it moves north or south, meteorologist Gavin Shigesato said. Preparations there should be rushed to completion as tropical-storm force winds are forecast to arrive in the warning area by late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Lane is expected to move northwest over the next couple of days with hurricane-force winds reaching out 40 miles wide from the eye of the storm. Weather officials say Lane can bring 10 - 15 inches of rain in some spots, but may be higher in other areas.

Will Hurricane Lane cause Kilauea to erupt again?

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But Klemetti does point out that there could be a threat of heavy rain "remobilizing some of the loose debris and ash" left in the recent lava flows. But early indications showed that the south end of the island up to the western side would be taking the brunt of the storm. It may take until the weekend for Lane to succumb to wind shear and weaken to a tropical storm.