As a Category 5 hurricane churns toward Hawaii, residents of the state are scrambling to prepare for powerful winds, heavy rains, and flash floods that are expected to arrive on the Big Island by Wednesday afternoon, local time.
Hurricane Lane, which was upgraded to a Category 5 on Tuesday night, local time, is predicted to sweep north and brush alongside the other islands, including Maui and Oahu, on Thursday morning. Meteorologists have said there is still a degree of uncertainty about the path the hurricane will take, but even if the center of the hurricane does not directly hit the islands, heavy rains and intense winds can still do considerable damage.
As of Wednesday morning, Lane had reached wind speeds of 160 miles per hour and gusts of 195 miles per hour, when the hurricane was still about 485 miles southeast of Honolulu, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation Tuesday, and he allowed nonessential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave through Friday. Schools on Maui and the Big Island also closed. According to USA Today, if the hurricane makes landfall, it will be the first to do so in Hawaii since 1992.
A hurricane warning is in place for parts of the Big Island, meaning hurricane conditions of forceful winds, heavy deluges, and large swells are expected within 36 hours. A hurricane watch, which means hurricane conditions are possible, is in place for Oahu, Maui, and other small islands, according to NOAA.
The hurricane is expected to weaken as it heads toward Hawaii, but experts say it will remain highly dangerous.