Tropical Storm Olivia approaches Hawaii with wind, rain

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii officials urged residents and visitors to be prepared as a strong tropical storm approached the island state.

Olivia was a few hundred miles east of Hilo late Monday with maximum sustained winds of 115kph. It was downgraded from a hurricane earlier in the day after wind shear weakened the storm.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell cautioned against complacency, noting tropical storms have led to flooding in Honolulu in recent years.

“We don’t know what it’s going to look like as Olivia approaches the Hawaiian Islands. So please, folks, don’t let your guard down,” Caldwell said.

He said crews were working hard to clear debris from streams so they would not block expected increased water flows.

Hurricane Olivia on the east of Hawaii. – AP

Forecasters said Olivia may drop 25 to 38 centimetres of rain on the Big Island and Maui County, though some areas could get 50 centimetres.

Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said work crews were being sent to neighbourhoods and parts of highways that flooded and suffered landslides during Hurricane Lane last month.

“By having people around to monitor the situation, to look for the signs, we can respond much quicker,” Okabe said. The county is also preparing to open shelters.

Lane dumped more than 52 inches of rain on the Big Island, marking the nation’s second-highest rainfall total for a tropical cyclone since 1950.

Nearly 40 people had to be rescued from floodwaters, while about 200 people reported damage to their homes on the Big Island because of Lane.

The ground has dried since Lane so there is no concern about it being already saturated before the Olivia arrives, Okabe said.

Managing Director of Maui County Keith Regan urged visitors to stay away from the town of Hana and the narrow winding road leading there. Hana Highway is a popular route for tourists to the island and could suffer some of the biggest effects of the storm.

Hawaii Governor David Ige said the state would be placing road equipment in Hana before the storm arrives so crews will be ready to respond if the highway gets blocked.

Oahu and Kauai are forecast to receive seven to 15 centimetres of rain, though precipitation could be as much as 20 to 25 centimetres in some areas.

The forecast showed the centre of the storm heading for Maui. But officials stressed there’s uncertainty about the storm’s exact path.

“It’s important that we don’t focus on the forecast track. This storm could directly impact every area of the state from South Point all the way to the north shore of Kauai,” said Administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Tom Travis.

In Guam, residents woke up yesterday to flooded streets, downed trees and widespread power outages after Typhoon Mangkhut passed through overnight.

The Pacific Daily News reported government agencies were conducting damage assessments and beginning to clear roads. About 80 per cent of the United States territory was without power.

Hurricanes are spawned east of the international date line. Typhoons develop west of the line.