Update 5 a.m.
Hurricane Lester weakened slightly overnight but continued on a track toward Hawaii, prompting hurricane watches for Hawaii and Maui counties.
With its center located about 750 miles east of Hilo and 945 miles east of Honolulu, Lester was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph this morning and was moving west at 14 mph.
Forecasters with the National Weather Service expect Lester to continue to weaken through early Saturday, and pass north of the islands as a hurricane over the Labor Day weekend. While the hurricane is forecast to move north of the state, all islands except the Big Island are in the so-called “cone of uncertainty,” meaning a direct hit is possible from Maui to Kauai.
Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 105 miles.
Hurricane watches are usually issued 48 hours before the onset of tropical storm-force winds in an area. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said today that hurricane wind conditions are possible over Hawaii and Maui counties Saturday.
Swells generated by Lester will build over eastern shores today and Friday, peaking this weekend, forecasters said. Heavy rains from Lester may reach Hawaii and Maui counties on Saturday, and the other islands later in the weekend.
Lester approaches the islands just as Tropical Storm Madeline moves west away from the islands after a close brush past the Big Island Wednesday. All islands are under a wind advisory today because of high winds associated with the former hurricane as it moves well south of the rest of the state.
Update 11:02 p.m.
Hurricane Lester continues to weaken and move west toward Hawaii at 14 mph.
At 11 p.m. Lester was located about 835 miles east of Hilo and 1,030 miles east of Honolulu with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.
There are no watches or warnings in effect.
Hurricane Lester, now in the Central Pacific on a path toward Hawaii, weakened to a still-powerful Category 3 storm this afternoon.
At 5 p.m., Lester was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, moving west at 14 mph, 915 miles east of Hilo and 1,105 miles east of Honolulu, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu.
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Forecasters expect Lester to weaken to below major hurricane status over the next 48 hours as it turns to the northwest, but it is likely to remain a hurricane as it nears Hawaii by the weekend.
Hurricane-force winds, of 74 mph or more, extend out 35 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds, of 39 mph or more, extend up to 105 miles.
Forecasters say large and potentially damaging swells generated by Lester will start to build over east-facing shores Thursday and Friday, peaking this weekend.
Lester could also bring strong winds and more rain to Hawaii Friday into Sunday. The forecast track has it moving just north of the islands, but it is still too far away to predict its exact path and potential effects on the islands.
“All interests in the Hawaiian Islands should continue to monitor the progress of Lester, as it is too early to determine what impacts there could be along the island chain given the track forecast uncertainty in the 3 to 5 day period,” forecasters said earlier today.