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Warning issued for waters off Big Isle as storm nears

  • COURTESY NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
    This image of hurricanes Ignacio, left, and Jimena was taken Saturday by the GOES-15 geostationary satellite. Hawaii is at the upper left. A tropical storm warning is in effect for windward and southeast waters off Hawaii island as Ignacio approaches the state.
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A tropical storm warning remains in effect for windward and southeast waters off Hawaii island as Hurricane Ignacio continues its approach toward the state.

The warning, issued Saturday afternoon, replaced a previously issued tropical storm watch for Hawaii County. Tropical storm warnings are typically issued within 48 hours of the possible arrival of tropical-storm-force winds.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

A 11 p.m. Saturday, Ignacio was 495 miles east-southeast of Hilo and 705 miles east-southeast of Honolulu, moving northwest at 8 mph.

The Category 4 hurricane was sporting maximum sustained winds of 145 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend 140 miles.

The National Weather Service warned that affected areas could experience destructive winds and dangerously high seas. Residents were advised to expect ocean water surging and sweeping across beaches, coastal benches and lava flows.

Hawaii island is also under a high-surf warning through 6 p.m. Tuesday, with waves of 6 to 12 feet Saturday night, increasing to 15 to 20 feet late Sunday on east shores.

"These dangerous conditions mean that only highly experienced persons should enter the water," the warning stated. "Inexperienced persons should remain off beaches and adjacent beachfront areas. Large breaking surf, significant shorebreak and dangerous currents make entering the water very hazardous. Anyone entering the water could face significant injury or death."

Ignacio is expected to continue to strengthen until Sunday, when it should gradually weaken.

The five-day forecast track for Ignacio has the storm passing north of the islands in the coming week. However, forecasters and government officials warn that there is still uncertainty about the storm’s path, so residents need to be prepared.

"If Ignacio shifts to the right, we could see light winds, more humid conditions, and localized heavy rain," the weather service said.

On a more leftward track closer to the islands, the state could see stronger, damaging winds and widespread heavy rain and flooding, the agency added.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa signed an emergency proclamation Saturday in anticipation of Ignacio.

"I urge all citizens to prepare their homes, family members and pets for the potential impacts of Ignacio," Arakawa said. "Now is the time to stock up on seven days of water and nonperishable food supplies, and to secure or move inside any loose objects around your home that could become airborne missiles. Make sure you have on hand fresh batteries for your radios and flashlights, and keep your vehicles fully fueled."

Gov. David Ige previously signed an emergency proclamation, which activates the major disaster fund set aside by the Legislature for disaster relief, provides easier access to state and federal emergency resources, and allows the suspension of certain laws for emergency purposes, according to Ige’s office.

Farther east but headed toward the Central Pacific is Category 4 Hurricane Jimena, which is sporting maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Jimena is expected to remain a major hurricane well into next week, the National Hurricane Center said.

Officials have expressed concern that this busier-than-normal, El-Nino-fueled hurricane season may lead to storm "fatigue" among residents who have watched several tropical cyclones threaten the islands in the past month. Officials stress that having a hurricane kit and plan is essential for all residents.

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