Hawaii storm: Hurricane Lane downgraded to tropical storm

Image source, Getty Images

Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it churns towards Hawaii, but is still causing flash flooding and landslides.

Schools and offices were closed as residents took shelter from the storm, which pummelled the US state with strong winds and torrential rain.

But Hawaii looks was spared its first direct hit by a major storm in 25 years.

President Donald Trump earlier declared a state of emergency for the state.

The White House said federal authorities were on standby to provide support and supplies to local and state emergency response efforts.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said early on Friday afternoon Hurricane Lane was "weakening quickly", with sustained winds of 85 mph (137km/h).

By 17:00 local time (03:00 GMT Saturday), the sustained wind speed had dropped to 70 mph, although "more flooding and damaging winds" were expected on parts of the islands.

Image source, Mario Tama/Getty Images
Image caption,
Hawaii residents carry dogs to safety as Hurricane Lane has prompts evacuations throughout the island.

Weather Service forecaster Leigh Anne Eaton said some parts of Big Island had already seen almost 3ft (90cm) or rain.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said there had been "catastrophic flooding" and wind gusts reaching 67mph (108 kmph).

Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) chief Brock Long took to Twitter to warn those in Hawaii to "heed the warnings of local officials and stay aware of your surroundings" until the danger had passed.

Image source, Hawaii Department of Transportation.
Image caption,
An image from the Hawaiian Department of Transportation posted a photo of a landslide blocking a highway on the Big Island/

Amidst concerns of the approaching storm, emergency personnel responded to "rapidly spreading" brush fire in western Maui.

The fire has prompted highway closures, power outages and precautionary evacuations.

Lane was also forecast to cause dangerous surf heights of up to 25ft (7.6m) in Maui and Oahu.

Officials warned of "significant beach erosion" and waves hitting coastal roadways.

Meanwhile, United Airlines said it had cancelled all Friday flights to and from the main airports on Maui, the second-largest island.

How are residents coping?

Roads were closed due to the landslides and images of cars attempting to tackle the deep waters were posted on social media.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Residents in other areas of the Big Island, such as Hilo, were caught out by the flash floods with several vehicles becoming trapped.

A member of staff at a local service station in Haleiwa, on the north shore of Oahu island, told AFP news agency that motorists had been "constantly filling" their vehicles.

"Everybody is in a panic mode right now, everyone is filling up gas, gas cans, propane cans," he said.

According to the Red Cross, more than 1,500 people are in shelters, Hawaii News Now reported.

Media caption,
Tomasz Schafernaker has the latest forecast for Hurricane Lane

Hawaii Governor David Ige urged residents to set aside supplies of water, food and medicines as a precaution and to avoid driving if possible.

Dozens of evacuation centres were also set up throughout the day as Mr Trump urged Hawaiians to hunker down and prepare for the worst.

Does Hawaii see many hurricanes?

According to NWS, only four named storms have made landfall in Hawaii since 1959 - and only two of those storms were hurricanes.

Hawaii generally sees about one storm strong enough to earn a name pass within 60 miles of the islands every four years.

Earlier this month, Hurricane Hector, a category four storm, also passed by the islands, though it did not come as close as Lane.

The state has also seen serious volcanic eruptions this summer, with lava and ash spewing from the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island since May.

Media caption,
The BBC's James Cook had a lucky escape after a tree hit him as he delivered a radio report


A guide to the world's deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we're about to get punched in the face."
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008