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Tropical Storm Niala turns west as it nears hurricane strength


  • As of 5 p.m. today, Tropical Storm Niala was 245 miles southeast of Hilo. (Courtesy National Weather Service)
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  • BETTY SHIMABUKURO / BSHIMABUKURO@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Rain soaked the farmers market in Hilo this morning as the island remained under a flash flood watch.
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Tropical Storm Niala — the record-tying 11th cyclone this hurricane season in the Central North Pacific — continued to strengthen as it turned west, on a track away from the islands.

The record was set in 1992 and repeated in 1994.

At 5 p.m today, Niala was moving west at 8 mph with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, an increase of 15 mph from Friday and 10 mph shy of category 1 hurricane. Niala was located about 245 miles southeast of Hilo and 450 miles southeast of Honolulu.

Niala is forecast to move west through Sunday then west-southwest on Monday. On its current track Niala will pass 120 to 150 miles south of Hawaii island on Sunday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, a tight pressure gradient between Niala and the islands will generate windy conditions along the smaller islands through Sunday night.

Weather officials this morning issued a wind advisory for all islands except Hawaii island through 6 a.m. Monday. Winds will be especially strong in areas usually exposed to tradewinds, forecasters said.

Winds from the are expected to reach 25 to 35 mph, with gusts to 50 mph, forecasters said.

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles from the center.

A tropical storm watch was issued by the National Weather Service for Hawaii island and is in effect through Sunday night.

Hawaii island is also under a flash flood watch. The watch remains in effect through Monday afternoon as abundant moisture is expected to move over the island. Total rainfall of 6 to 12 inches is expected with highest amounts along south- and east-facing slopes. 

A high surf advisory is in effect from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. Monday. The advisory covers east-facing shores of Kauai, Oahu, Molokai and Maui. 

National Weather Service forecasters say tradewinds will strengthen this weekend as Niala passes south of the smaller Hawaiian islands. The locally generated wind waves and easterly swell will produce advisory-level surf heights along east-facing shores through the weekend. 

Surf of 6 to 9 feet along east-facing shores and 9 to 12 feet along southeast-facing shores is expected to build Saturday, peak Saturday night and Sunday, then decline Sunday night and Monday. 

Maui might also feel the effects of Niala, but as of this evening the Central Pacific Hurricane Center was not forecasting it would touch the other main Hawaiian Islands.

Moderate to locally breezy trade winds will prevail through the week and could become locally windy on Hawaii island over the weekend, forecasters said. Heavy showers and thunderstorms will be possible on Hawaii island late Saturday through Monday.

Meanwhile, a small craft advisory remains in effect until 6 a.m. Monday for waters around Maui and Hawaii counties as a high pressure system north of the state generates strong winds.

The advisory covers Maalaea Bay, the Pailolo (Molokai-Maui) and Alenuihaha (Maui-Big Isle) channels and waters southeast and southwest of Hawaii island, the National Weather Service said.

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