Kihei (United States) (AFP) – Hawaii hunkered down Thursday as a rare pair of hurricanes took aim at the holiday paradise, with the first expected to make landfall within hours.
Big Island was expected to see a direct hit from Hurricane Iselle Thursday night, bringing with it strong winds, heavy rain and dangerous storm surges, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) warned.
In an unusual development, Iselle is being trailed by another, stronger hurricane dubbed Julio, with the prospect of a one-two punch placing the popular archipelago on even higher alert.
Packing maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour (140 kilometers per hour), Iselle — a Category 1 storm — was located some 350 miles (560 kilometers) east-southeast of Hilo and 560 miles east-southeast of the state capital Honolulu at 1200 GMT, the CPHC forecasters said.
“On the forecast track, the center of Iselle is expected to pass over the Big Island tonight and pass just south of the smaller islands Friday,” they added.
Tropical storm conditions were expected on Big Island Thursday afternoon, with hurricane conditions taking hold overnight. Maui and Oahu were forecast to see tropical storm conditions starting late Thursday.
The haven for sun-seekers from around the world was expected to see rainfall of up to 12 inches thanks to Iselle.
“These rains could cause life-threatening flash floods as well as rock and mud slides,” the CPHC cautioned.
Julio, which strengthened to a Category 2 storm overnight, was situated some 1,340 miles east of Hilo, according to the latest update from the National Hurricane Center.
With maximum sustained winds of nearly 100 miles per hour, the NHC forecasters warned it could strengthen some more before slowly losing steam.
On its current trajectory, Julio was expected to pass to the north of Big Island as a tropical storm late Saturday or Sunday.
With the twin storms fast approaching, television images showed long lines at local supermarkets, as residents and vacationers alike rushed to stock up on water and other basics to see them through the next few days.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that shelters would open Thursday night for residents of Oahu — home to Honolulu — and that state authorities were shutting down a slew of recreation areas that could become danger zones due to possible flash flooding and other storm-related hazards.
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