Watch CBSN Live

Flossie Grazes Hawaii, Now Category 1

Hours after getting jolted by a moderate earthquake, residents of Hawaii's Big Island holed up for a different force of nature Tuesday: Hurricane Flossie, which brought pounding 25-foot waves in a powerful but glancing blow.

Schools and many businesses closed and shelters opened in anticipation of the storm, which was downgraded first to a Category 2 and then to a Category 1 hurricane with top sustained winds of 85 mph. The storm moved about 95 miles south of South Point, the southernmost area of the United States.

At 8 p.m. local time, the storm was moving to the west-northwest near 10 mph.

CBS Affiliate KGMB9 in Honolulu reports the the Big Island is still under a Hurricane Watch as well as a Tropical Storm Warning, meaning that hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours and tropical storm conditions (winds at least 39 mph) are imminent within 24 hours.

The island is also under a Flash Flood Watch, through Wednesday, reports KGMB9, which means flooding conditions are possible but not yet imminent.

Aircraft reconnaissance found the eye of the hurricane had disappeared, an indication the storm continued to weaken, forecasters said.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu said the Big Island could expect winds exceeding 40 mph and 10 inches of rain overnight and into Wednesday.

The storm comes on the heels of a 5.4-magnitude earthquake centered 25 miles south of Hilo. The quake Monday night caused a small landslide, but there were no reports of injuries or structural damage, said Tom Brown, a spokesman for Hawaii County Civil Defense.

More than two dozen aftershocks followed, the largest measuring magnitude 3.2, said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist in charge at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Anticipating Flossie, the Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched a 20-person advance emergency response team that arrived in Hawaii on Monday, spokeswoman Kim Walz said. The team includes specialists in areas of transportation, aviation, public works and health.

"Instead of waiting for an actual disaster and then going in and providing support, we want to be ready," she said. "We've begun to move resources into place ahead of time to be prepared."

The National Weather Service placed the Big Island under a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning because of the storm, which was supposed to affect the island through Wednesday. A flash flood watch was also issued for the island.

Hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph extended outward up to 40 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm force wind of at least 39 mph extend outward up to 105 miles.

"This is too close for comfort," said National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the state adjutant general.

At South Point, resident Brianna Beck visited a favorite swimming spot to watch the waves. Her family prepared for the hurricane by taping the windows and tying down everything in their yard.

The currents were much stronger than normal, said Beck, 21.

"This is pretty intense," she said.

In the nearby town of Naalehu, small businesses such as the Star Wash coin laundry had signs saying they were closed for the day.

According to the Red Cross, a special hurricane shelter in Kealakehe, farther north, harbored 15 people overnight Monday. Most were campers ordered out of the parks that were closed.

"I'm a lot more optimistic than I was, but the reality is, you just don't know until it passes you by," said Marty Moran, a volunteer coordinator for the Red Cross.

In Naalehu, the Hana Ho Restaurant closed an hour early so the staff could get home before the storm arrived.

A group of eight tourists from Santa Cruz, Calif. abandoned their vacation condominium and took refuge at the Ka'u High School shelter just in case the storm worsened.

"We didn't want anyone to have to take care of us because we weren't taking care of ourselves," said Robin Steinberg, who was planning to stay on the island until Friday.

The group of tourists was staying across from Punaluu Black Sand Beach, where some of the strongest surf was pounding the island.

While Flossie stirred up the Pacific, Tropical Storm Dean formed Tuesday in the open Atlantic, nearly 1,400 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. By late morning, it had top sustained wind of 40 mph, just above the threshold to be a named storm, and was moving west at about 21 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Dean was moving over increasingly warmer water, where conditions could create a favorable environment for intensification into a hurricane by Friday, but forecasters said it was too early to tell where Dean will go.

In Hawaii, Gov. Linda Lingle signed an emergency disaster proclamation, which activates the National Guard. Hawaii Island Mayor Harry Kim also declared a state of emergency Monday as a precaution.

The Big Island is largely rural, with about 170,000 people, and most live in the west or northeast, not the southern portion expected to be hit hardest. Other islands were expected to get much less wind and rain.

The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was 1992, when Iniki ravaged Kauai, killing six people and causing $2.5 billion in damage.

Marlene Phillips, a Red Cross volunteer who supervised an evacuation site at Kowaena High School, said no one had taken refuge there early Tuesday morning.

"We're just going to cross our fingers that nothing happens," she said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.