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By Jolyn Rosa and Terray Sylvester
HONOLULU (Reuters)

Hawaii was spared a direct hit by a major hurricane as Lane, once a monster tempest, rapidly weakened into a tropical storm, even as it unleashed severe flooding on the Big Island and threatened to drench Oahu and Maui

Lane, with maximum sustained winds diminishing to near 70 mph (110 kph), was forecast to slowly make its nearest approach to land just west of the U.S. Pacific island chain over the weekend, bringing tropical storm conditions to Maui and the state’s most populous island, Oahu, late on Friday.

 

Social media video grab shows a surfer riding on a strong wave as Hurricane Lane approaches Maui, Hawaii
A surfer rides on a strong wave as Hurricane Lane approaches Maui, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Courtesy of Instagram @bigdart/Social Media via REUTERS

 

More than two feet (60 cm) of rain had fallen in a 36-hour period by Friday night on the windward side of the island of Hawaii, popularly known as the Big Island, where the Weather Service reported “catastrophic flooding.” More than 40 inches of rain was recorded in Piihonua and Waiakea on the island late on Friday, the weather service said.

Flash flooding and mudslides on the Big Island forced road closures and evacuations as police and emergency crews conducted numerous rescues of people stranded in vehicles and homes by high water on Friday.

 

A photo from the International Space Station by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Lane in the early morning hours near Hawaii
A photo taken from the International Space Station and moved on social media by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Lane in the early morning hours near Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS

 

“Roads all over are impassable due to extreme flooding,” said Hawaii resident Lili Koi on Twitter late on Friday night. “That means ambulances and even police are not able to get through. Say some prayers and be safe.”

A number of structures on the island of Hawaii were destroyed, said Melissa Dye, a Weather Service spokeswoman in Honolulu.

 

 

She said two Hilo-area neighbourhoods were evacuated. But no injuries were reported.

“I’ve never seen this, so much devastation of the river flowing down off of Komohana (River),” said long-time resident Tracy Pacheco in Hilo. “I just came from Pahale Park, and there’s no park.”

 

FORECASTS LESS DIRE

Official bulletins grew less dire through the day. Into the evening, forecasts made clear that Hawaii had been spared from the threat of its first direct hit by a major hurricane in a quarter of a century.

 

Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii
Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018 in this still image from video obtained from social media. Ryan Leinback/via REUTERS

 

Lane was downgraded on Friday to a Category 1, the lowest ranking on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, as it churned through the Pacific south of Oahu, the National Weather Service said. It was downgraded again to a tropical storm shortly before 5 p.m. as its maximum sustained wind speeds fell below 74 mph.

The storm was nearly stationary south of Hawaii on Friday night. It was expected to move slowly toward the northwest later and then turn west on Saturday and continue over the weekend, the National Weather Service said in an advisory.

 

Still image from video shows chicken hopping through floodwaters in Hilo, Hawaii
A chicken hops through floodwaters in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018, in this still image from video obtained from social media. Kehau Comilla/via REUTERS

 

Forecasts predicted that Lane, which peaked as a Category 5 hurricane with top sustained winds of 160 mph (260 kph) earlier in the week, to diminish into a tropical depression by early on Sunday.

The turn of events was welcomed by residents who had spent much of the past few days stocking up on food, water, gasoline and batteries and boarding up their windows.

 

TORRENTIAL DOWNPOURS, EVACUATIONS

Still, the storm posed a considerable weather hazard to large parts of the state, with the island of Hawaii bearing the brunt of torrential downpours from Lane.

 

Flood waters cascade down a road in Hilo, Hawaii
Flood waters cascade down a road in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., August 24, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Hawaii Science and Technology Museum/via REUTERS

 

On Oahu, where 70 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents live, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told the Weather Channel that the city has moved its emergency-response equipment to higher ground for the time being.

He said Honolulu, the state’s capital and largest city, is vulnerable to floods and slides because it is partly ringed by mountains.

 

Stormwater flows through a drainage system after Hurricane Lane in Hilo, Hawaii
Stormwater flows through a drainage system after Hurricane Lane in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., August 24, 2018 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media on August 25, 2018. Hawaii Science And Technology Museum/via REUTERS

 

“We have asked our residents in these areas where they know it floods to be ready to leave,” Caldwell said, adding that 1,100 people were staying in emergency shelters throughout the city.

New Yorker Rigo Pagoada, 43, who was on vacation on Oahu with his family, said he felt lucky it had been largely spared.

 

Surfers walk to the water to paddle out as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu
Surfers walk to the water to paddle out as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

“We’ve been very fortunate,” he said. “It’s sad to see the (impact on) the Big Island.”

Hawaii’s major airports remained open during the storm, though 22 flights were cancelled at Honolulu’s main airport, according to online tracking service FlightAware.com.

 

A road is submerged in floodwaters in Hilo, Hawaii
A road is submerged in floodwaters in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., August 24, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Hawaii Science and Technology Museum/via REUTERS

 

Several airlines also cancelled services to Kahului Airport on Maui in anticipation of severe weather, the state transportation department said.

The governor said travellers should expect congestion at the airports on Saturday and Sunday from the backlog of cancelled flights.

 

(Additional reporting by Diane Craft in Kailua, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Makini Brice in Washington, Alex Dobzinskis in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter in New York Writing by Daniel Wallis and Steve Gorman; Editing by Alison Williams and Helen Popper)

 

People walk along a calm Hanalei Beach as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai Hawaii
People walk along a calm Hanalei Beach as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sue Horton

 

Social media video grab shows waves crashing on the coast as Hurricane Lane approaches Ka'u, Hawaii
Waves crash on the coast as Hurricane Lane approaches Ka’u, Hawaii, U.S. August 22 2018, in this still image obtained from a social media video. Video taken from inside a vehicle. Courtesy of Ken Boyer/Social Media via REUTERS

 

A long line of cars fill up on gas before Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii
A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton

 

Mark Antolin and his son load sand to fill sand bags into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu
Mark Antolin and his son load sand to fill sand bags into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

Paul Akamine fills propane tanks for customers as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu.
Paul Akamine fills propane tanks for customers as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

Flood waters cascade down a road in Hilo, Hawaii
Flood waters cascade down a road in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., August 24, 2018, in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. Hawaii Science and Technology Museum/via REUTERS

 

 

A gas station remains closed after running out of gas as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu.
A gas station remains closed after running out of gas as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

A gas station remains closed after running out of gas as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu.
A gas station remains closed after running out of gas as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

Wilder Chok gets gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu
Wilder Chok gets gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

Members of the Alapahoe outrigger canoe club move their canoes off the beach to higher ground as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu
Members of the Alapahoe outrigger canoe club move their canoes off the beach to higher ground as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu
Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry

 

 

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