Ana is expected to maintain its hurricane strength even as it churns in the ocean southeast of Oahu on Saturday, forecasters said.
But while the state likely will see plenty of Ana’s wind, heavy rain and big waves this weekend, the islands could escape the worst ofit.
The forecasted track of Ana continued to veer west Friday night, leaving it on a projected west-by-northwestcourse 160 miles off Hawaii island early Saturday morning and 185 miles off the islands of Maui County on Saturday afternoon and Oahu on Saturday night.
However, National Weather Services forecasters were still calling Ana a potential threat to the islands. It’s a large storm, they said, with hurricane-force winds reaching out 25 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds, from 39 mph to 73 mph, extending outward to 105 miles.
"It’s a hurricane, so it’s a dangerous storm, and it’s not far from the Hawaiian islands," said Chris Brenchley, meteorologist with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Public officials said Friday they remain ready to spring into action for whatever response is necessary.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city would hold off making an emergency declaration for now, and no parks would be closed, except Hanauma Bay on Sunday. Only five evacuation shelters would be opened.
"Right now it’s business as usual," the mayor said.
But he added that things could change quickly as more weather data become available.
Could Ana surprise forecasters and make a sharp turn north toward the islands like Hurricane Iniki did in 1992?
"It’s not impossible but it’s very unlikely," Brenchley said.
Twenty-two years ago forecasters were using relatively primitive methods to predict the behavior of hurricanes compared with today’s arsenal of technology, including massive supercomputers that generate vast amounts of data that paint a clearer picture of atmospheric influences on a global scale.
As of 11 p.m. Friday, Ana was moving in a northwest direction at 13 mph. The island is under a tropical storm watch.
» High surf: Surf on south- and southeast-facing shores could reach 20 feet or more. The most vulnerable locations on southern shores could see storm surge of up to 2 feet.
» High wind: Tropical storm conditions are possible with sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts reaching 50 mph.
» Flooding: Between 6 and 8 inches of rain with isolated totals of 12 inches possible. Conditions could result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.
» Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is closed Saturday morning. If it is safe to do so, the park and its visitor center will reopen at noon. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/havo.
» All state parks are closed. All state forest areas, hiking trails and public hunting areas are closed.
» All state-managed forest reserves, natural-area reserves, trails, hunting areas and campgrounds are closed.
» Haleakala National Park’s summit and Kipahulu districts are closed until further notice. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/hale.
"There’s a lot more accuracy," he said. "That being said, they’re not perfect. There’s always a bit of uncertainty in the forecast, and that inherent uncertainty keeps us watching it closely and monitoring how it’s evolving as it moves."
All of the islands were put on tropical storm watch, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible across the main Hawaiian Islands this weekend with sustained winds of 30 mph and gusts reaching 50 mph as the center of Ana passes nearby.
Between 6 and 8 inches of rain is expected on all islands this weekend, with isolated totals of 12 inches possible. Conditions could result in life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, Brenchley said.
"We expect there will be a lot of rain, not just at the center, but throughout the entire island chain," he said.
The most vulnerable locations on southern shores could see storm surge of up to 2 feet. Surf on south- and southeast-facing shores could reach 20 feet or more.
Even though Ana is expected to weaken Saturday, Sunday and Monday, it will remain a dangerous tropical storm that could start to veer toward the islands, forecasters said.
Brenchley urged people to be prepared for potential heavy weather.
"Main point is there’s still a lot of uncertainty," he said.
Caldwell also cautioned residents to remain vigilant.
"Even if we dodge the bullet, it doesn’t mean we aren’t going to feel the impact," he said. "Maybe it’s not going to be hurricane-force, but when you have sustained gusts of 40 or 50 mph — we’ve seen that happen along Farrington Highway with poles coming down in 2011."
The state Emergency Operations Center opened Friday at the Emergency Management Agency/Civil Defense headquarters at Diamond Head.
Doug Mayne, state Emergency Management Agency administrator, said his staff is meeting with state and federal officials daily and coordinating the potential response. A videoconference was held Friday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and another one was scheduled for Saturday.
After having dealt with Tropical Storm Iselle in August, Mayne said the state is ready for Ana.
"We are as well trained and ready now as we ever have been," he said. "I’m very confident our team will come together to support the people of Hawaii."
He added, however, that he believes the counties will be able to respond to most of those storm impacts without help.
Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong of the Hawaii National Guard said the Guard’s operation center and aircraft are in place for the weekend.
"We are trained to do this," Wong said. "We’re making sure our processes are even better coming into Tropical Storm Ana."
The city will open pet-friendly emergency shelters at 4 p.m. Saturday at Brigham Young University, Farrington High School, Leilehua High School, Nanakuli High School and Waimanalo Elementary School. Pets need to be either leashed or in a cage.
Residents can call 768-CITY (2489) with any Ana-related questions or for free transportation to the nearest shelter.
"We all hope it’s going to be a nonevent," Caldwell said. "But we’ve seen with (Hurricanes) Iniki and Iwa the effects of a devastating hurricane, and I’d like to remind people that they can occur at any time, including right now. So we want people to be ready, and we’re asking people to take it seriously."
LIST OF OAHU SHELTERS