Hawaii Braces For Hurricane Lane, Now A Category 5

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Weather officials warn the island chain will see high surf, rip currents, winds and heavy rain.

Hurricane Lane is a Category 5 storm on Wednesday morning.

Hurricane-force winds are reaching up to 40 miles out from the center of the storm and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles. And prevailing winds in the tropics flow west.

But forecast models are indicating that Lane will turn in a more northerly direction by late Tuesday and Wednesday, which could put it on track to bring significant impacts to the islands.

Regardless of Lane's exact track, the storm is likely to push "large and potentially damaging surf along exposed west, south and east facing shorelines", according to the hurricane center. Excessive rainfall could trigger widespread, life-threatening flash flooding and landslides; and unsafe rip currents along south, southeast and southwest facing shores.

It isn't often that the islands are threatened by tropical systems, although the last storm of note was Madeline in 2016 which also caused hurricane watches and warnings to be issued for some islands.

Kauai resident Mike Miranda was 12 when Hurricane Iniki devastated the island 26 years ago. The red circle shows the location of the Hawaiian Islands; the magenta and purple line segments indicate where storms were at Category 4 or 5 strength, respectively.

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

Hurricane Lane is poised to give Hawaii an unusually major encounter with a major cyclone - and could batter the Big Island with rain and tropical storm force winds as early as Wednesday night.

Lane may weaken even further - to Category 3 - by Thursday afternoon and even fall to a Category 2 by Friday with winds up to 110 miles per hour and its center west of Hawaii Island and south of Honolulu.

Meteorologist Chevy Chevalier in Honolulu says winds slowed overnight from 259 to 250 km/h prompting a downgrade of the hurricane from a Category 5 to a Category 4.

Also Tuesday, Gov. David Ige and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim signed emergency proclamations ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Lane.

It's not possible to know which islands will see the worst storm effects right now due to the close proximity of the hurricane track to the Hawaiian Islands and uncertainties in Lane's track caused by increasing wind shear through the atmosphere as it moves northward.

Part of the reason hurricanes are rare in Hawaii is that the state presents a pretty small target in a very big ocean.