HONOLULU – Barely holding on to hurricane strength, Iselle’s outer edges brought rain and wind to Hawaii on Thursday afternoon as it approached landfall, poised to become the first hurricane or tropical storm to hit the island chain in 22 years and whose path another hurricane closely followed.
Hurricane Iselle was expected to pass overnight across the Big Island, one of the least-populated islands and known for coffee fields, volcanoes and black sand beaches, then send rain and high winds to the rest of the state today. The storm’s predicted track had it skirting just south of the other islands.
Iselle was expected hit as a high-end tropical storm or low-end hurricane, the National Weather Service in Honolulu said.
Forecasters were analyzing storm data before making changes to its categorization in the coming hours, Weather Service meteorologist Eric Lau said.
But we’re not really too concerned about the track or the intensity of the system, he said. We’re primarily urging residents to still take proper precautions to prepare themselves to keep everyone safe.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio, a Category 2 storm, followed Iselle’s path with sustained maximum winds of 105 mph. It was about 1,000 miles behind Iselle and is projected to head just north of the islands early Sunday.
Hawaii has been directly hit by hurricanes only three times since 1950. The last time Hawaii was hit with a hurricane or tropical storm was in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes in Kauai, Lau said.
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the state is prepared for the back-to-back storms, noting that the National Guard is at the ready, and state and local governments were closing offices, schools and transit services across Hawaii. Emergency shelters were also opening.
State Attorney General David Louie promised that Saturday’s primary elections, including congressional and gubernatorial races, will go forward as planned.
As residents prepared earlier Thursday for the possible one-two punch of storms, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck the Big Island but did not cause major damage.