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First tropical storm of season forms east of Big Island

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NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured an infrared image of Tropical Depression 4E Wednesday after it moved into the Central Pacific.
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This composite satellite image shows the center of Tropical Depression 4-E about 685 miles east of Hilo at 5 p.m. Two other systems, to the southwest of the depression are not expected to affect Hawaii's weather.
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This graphic shows the projected path of the storm as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

A tropical depression east of Hawaii grew into a tropical storm Wednesday night, but forecasters say the storm should then weaken as it passes well north of the islands this weekend.

It is the first tropical storm of the year in the Central Pacific.

“It’s supposed to pass well north of the state, so we’re not expecting it to have any major impacts,” said Bob Burke, a meteorologist with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Expect hot and humid weather and advisory-level surf on east shores starting Friday, forecasters said. Moisture from the storm could also bring rain through the weekend and possible heavy showers.

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, the tropical depression became Tropical Storm Ela.

Its wind speed was reported at 40 mph, just above the minimum for a storm.

However, it’s likely to lose steam and revert to a tropical depression.

“It’s still going to track northeast of the islands,” said Central Pacific Hurricane Center meteorologist Norman Hui. “The winds will die down and bring moist, unstable air over us, probably Saturday and Sunday.”

At 11 p.m. Wednesday, Ela was about 650 miles east of Hilo.

The 5 p.m. report had the tropical storm moving steadily northwest at 12 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.

“We’re looking at humidity levels probably at least as high as what we had about a week ago with our last episode of when the trades died out,” said Chris Brenchley, a meteorologist with the Honolulu office of the National Weather Service.

Typical humidity levels in Hawaii are between 50 and 60 percent, Brenchley said. Humidity levels on Saturday and Sunday will likely be between 60 and 80 percent.

The heat index, a measure of how hot it will feel with the heat and humidity, suggests that it will feel like temperatures are in the high 90s or even 100 degrees this weekend, Brenchly said. 

Tradewinds should begin to return Monday and will blow rain clouds over the islands from the tail end of the storm, Brenchley said. Skies should clear by Tuesday on Oahu.

The current track has the storm making its closest pass, about 200 miles north of the islands, on Saturday as a tropical depression or remnant.

However the margin of error on forecast tracks 4 to 5 days away, can vary by 100 to 300 miles, Brenchley said.

An Air Force Hurricane Hunter plane arrived in Honolulu Wednesday and began flying into the storm to help forecasters get information from inside the storm’s center.

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