Hawaii residents brace themselves as hurricane strengthens

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Hawaii residents are stocking up on bottled water and other essentials as they face the threat of a strengthening hurricane.

The US National Weather Service said Hurricane Lane has become a Category 5 hurricane, which means that it is likely to cause catastrophic damage with winds of 157mph or above, as well as heavy rain and flash flooding.

The service has now extended its hurricane warning for Hawaii’s Big Island to include the island of Maui.

Hurricane Lane “is forecast to move dangerously close to the main Hawaiian islands as a hurricane later this week, potentially bringing damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding from heavy rainfall,” the weather service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center warned.

The storm had been moving west, but it is expected to turn north-west towards the state on Wednesday. There is uncertainty over Lane’s path — whether it moves north or south, meteorologist Gavin Shigesato said.

“It is much too early to confidently determine which, if any, of the main Hawaiian islands will be directly impacted by Lane,” the weather service said.

But the hurricane centre said the storm will move very close to or over the islands from Thursday through to Saturday. Even if the centre of Lane does not make landfall, the islands could be hit by rain and wind.

Hurricane Lane preparations
Sandbags are set up at the west end of the Sheraton Waikiki hotel in Honolulu (AP)

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 Hurricane Lane approaches.

Employees on Hawaii and Maui islands who work in disaster response as well as in hospitals and prisons are required to report to their jobs, the governor said.

Longtime Hawaii residents recalled a devastating 1992 hurricane as they prepared for Hurricane Lane.

Kauai resident Mike Miranda was 12 when Hurricane Iniki devastated the island 26 years ago. “A lot of people are comparing the similarities between Iniki and Lane,” he said.

Iniki’s turn into the islands was sudden, he recalled.

“I remember how very little rain fell. But I remember the wind being the strongest force of nature I’ve ever witnessed and probably the scariest sounds I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said.

Utility poles were down all over the island, and his 7th-grade classes were held in Army tents for several months.

Mr Miranda said his family is used to preparing for hurricane season.

“A lot of people who moved here and never experienced a hurricane . they’re the ones rushing to the store,” he said.

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