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Hurricane Lane: Category 3 storm threatens prolonged heavy rainfall on Hawaii

Last Updated Aug 24, 2018 10:38 AM EDT

HONOLULU — Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a Category 3 Thursday, but the storm's slow motion threatened Hawaii with days of rain. Parts of the Big Island were soaked with more than a foot of rain Thursday. 

Forecasters say Lane's current track has the storm coming "perilously close" the main Hawaiian Islands Thursday into Friday as a hurricane. In addition to downpours, the hurricane is pushing up wave heights and could mean strong winds, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB reports.

Forecasters said Lane's eye passed over a buoy about 250 miles southwest of the Big Island on Thursday morning, and a peak wind speed of 107 mph was recorded. 

"Regardless of the exact track, life-threatening impacts are likely over many areas as this strong hurricane makes its closest approach," the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said.

As of 2 p.m. local time, Lane was located about 190 miles south-southwest of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, and about 200 miles south of Honolulu. Maximum sustained winds were recorded at 125 mph, making it a powerful Category 3 storm. 

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Hurricane Lane on Aug. 23, 2018.

NOAA Satellites

The National Weather Service (NWS) warned that some areas could see up to 30 inches before the system passes. Bands of rain extended 350 miles from the hurricane's center.  Hurricane-force winds extend 35 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.

"Hurricane Lane is still a dangerous and powerful storm," said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

"Lane, while it's been downgraded, is wide and very moist and it's going to hang around for a while," said Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Hawaii's last direct hit happened in 1992 with Hurricane Iniki, causing $3 billion in damage. The Big Island is already reeling from months of devastating lava flows from the Kilauea volcano. For an island that just can't seem to catch a break, those eruptions have died down just as waters start to rise.  

More on hurricanes in Hawaii:

"Even though the eye is south of the Big Island, we are seeing excessive rainfall already affecting the islands," weather service meteorologist Gavin Shigesato said from Honolulu.

Tropical storm conditions, with winds of 73 mph, were expected to reach the Big Island, Hawaii's easternmost major island, later Thursday morning, with hurricane conditions possible later in the day.   

Authorities said Thursday two campers are trapped in a Hawaii valley that has been hit by heavy rain from an approaching hurricane.  

Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said the campers called to report they were trapped Wednesday in Waipio Valley on the Big Island's northern coast.

He said emergency workers haven't been able to contact them since then because of poor cellphone reception.

He said it's not safe for emergency crews to search for them because of landslides and rivers of rain blocking roads.

Okabe said the south shore of the Big Island is seeing 31-foot swells as Hurricane Lane approaches.

Dangerous, heavy rains and flooding are occurring in east Hawaii as Lane slows down. 

Residents Of Hawaii Prepare For Hurricane Lane

A man takes photos of floodwaters from Hurricane Lane rainfall on the Big Island on August 23, 2018 in Hilo, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane has brought more than a foot of rain to some parts of the Big Island which is under a flash flood warning.

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Okabe says there are also reports of boulders falling in a Hilo park. 

NASA and NOAA shared an view of the hurricane from space showing the huge swirling storm clouds closing in on Hawaii. The image, taken by the GOES-15 satellite Wednesday, reveals the well-developed eye of the storm positioned about 300 miles south of the Big Island.

The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. Hawaii rarely gets hit. The last major storm to hit was Iniki in 1992. Others have come close in recent years. 

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

Puaoi was 12 at the time of Hurricane Iniki. 

"When it did happen, I just remember pandemonium. It was all-out craziness," she said. 

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This image from the GOES-15 satellite shows Hurricane Lane, with a well-defined eye, positioned about 300 miles south of Hawaii's Big Island at 2 p.m. ET on August 22, 2018.

NOAA

Unlike Florida or Texas, where residents can get in their cars and drive hundreds of miles to safety, people in Hawaii are confined to the islands and must stay put. They have to make sure they have enough supplies to outlast prolonged power outages and other potential emergencies. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several barges with food, water and supplies that it moved into the region ahead of Hurricane Hector, which skirted past the islands more than a week ago, according to FEMA Administrator Brock Long. 

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

President Trump issued a disaster declaration Wednesday, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, to coordinate disaster-relief efforts with the state.