Hurricanes weaken approaching Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — Hurricane Lane has weakened as it approaches Hawaii but still was expected to pack a wallop, forecasters said Wednesday, as people hurried to buy water and other supplies and the Navy moved its ships to safety.

The National Weather Service said tropical-storm-force winds could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon on the Big Island.

“We’re planning on boarding up all our windows and sliding doors,” Napua Puaoi of Wailuku, Maui, said after buying 16 pieces of plywood from Home Depot. “As soon as my husband comes home — he has all the power tools.”

The hurricane was about 305 miles south of Kailua-Kona and moving northwest toward other islands.

Meteorologist Chevy Chevalier in Honolulu said its winds had slowed overnight from 160 mph to 155 mph, prompting a downgrade from a Category 5 to a Category 4 hurricane.

He said it may drop to a Category 3 by this afternoon but that would still be a major hurricane.

“We expect it to gradually weaken as it gets closer to the islands,” Chevalier said. “That being said, on our current forecast, as of the afternoon on Thursday, we still have it as a major hurricane.”

With winds anticipated to 130 mph, the hurricane could cause catastrophic damage.

Residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies as they faced the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and high surf.

Public schools on the Big Island and in Maui County closed Wednesday until further notice.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said employees on Hawaii and Maui islands who work in disaster response as well as in hospitals and prisons were required to report to their jobs.

Puaoi said Home Depot opened at 6 a.m., and employees reported there already was a line around the building.

“We are fully stocked,” she said. “We have about nine cases of water because we’re having family stay with us as well, so one case per person.”

The U.S. Navy was moving its ships and submarines out of Hawaii. All vessels not undergoing maintenance were being positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.

Navy aircraft will be kept in hangars or flown to other airfields to avoid the storm.