Hawaii island and Maui are in the cross hairs this morning as the isles
face the first direct hit from a tropical storm in more than 20 years.
At 8 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Flossie was 265 miles east of Hilo and 465 miles east-southeast of Honolulu and moving east at 18 mph. The storm was sporting maximum sustained winds of about 60 mph and was expected to weaken as it approached the island today.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe. A tropical storm watch is in effect for Kauai and Niihau.
Flossie is expected to still be at tropical storm intensity -- winds 39 to 73 mph -- when it makes landfall on Hawaii island today, according to National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist Michael Cantin.
The Big Island and Maui are expected to absorb the worst as the storm takes aim. Both islands could be subjected to maximum sustained winds of up to 40 mph, with gusts of up to 50 mph.
Winds on the other islands are expected to reach 25 to 35 mph, with gusts up to 40.
"These winds will be strong enough to cause minor structural damage to roofs, lanais, shingles and then some vegetation as well," Cantin said.
Cantin said that residents who are in the path of the storm and concerned about their belongings can feel free to board up their windows but that it isn't being recommended to everyone because the storm is not bringing hurricane-strength wind to the islands.
Cantin said the most significant potential danger will be heavy rain. The windward areas of the Big Island and Maui could be hit with up to 10 inches of rain over a six- to eight-hour period as the storm passes, he said. Windward Oahu could experience as much as 8 inches of rain. Such volume of precipitation could lead to flooding, landslides and other hazards.
Only minor storm surges are expected because the storm hasn't been very strong for very long, but coastal areas will still be dangerous.
"Those waves will be breaking, they'll be breaking over breakwalls, say like in Hilo Harbor and along coastal benches, so if you're out there the potential for being swept into the sea is very real, and we've got to take that seriously," he said.
Minor surging, combined with strong winds and large waves, will probably cause minor coastal inundation in areas that are prone to it, Cantin said.
Cantin explained earlier that the storm was drawing dry conditions from the north across the islands, resulting in clear, relatively breezy conditions. As the storm nears, however, it is expected to churn warmer, humid air from the south, creating muggy conditions in immediate advance of the approaching wind and rain.
Though the bright, clear afternoon Sunday did nothing to support the dire predictions coming from her television, 80-year-old downtown resident Gussie Bento figured it wasn't worth taking any chances.
So, with shopping list duly stored on her smartphone, Bento made her way across the street to the Longs Drugs store on Vineyard Boulevard to stock up on supplies in advance of Flossie's much-anticipated arrival.
"You hear about this kind of thing once in a while, and even though nothing usually comes to fruition, you have to figure that maybe one day it will," she said, chuckling. "It's better to be safe than sorry."
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