Update 5:30 a.m.
The National Weather Service upgraded a high surf advisory to a high surf warning for east shores of Hawaii island, Molokai and Maui.
The warning goes into effect at 6 p.m. and continues until 6 a.m.
A high surf advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m. for east shores of most islands.
Surf in the warning areas is expected to rise to 10 to 18 feet this afternoon and 15 to 25 feet tonight on east shores of Hawaii island. Surf is expected to reach 20 to 35 feet along east shores of Maui and Molokai.
Update 5 a.m.
The National Weather Service dropped a hurricane watch for Hawaii County as Hurricane Lester continued on a west-northwest path toward Hawaii.
At 5 a.m., Lester was 435 miles east of Hilo and 625 miles east of Honolulu. It’s sustained winds remained at 110 mph with hurricane-force winds extending 45 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds going out 140 miles from the center.
The forecast track for Lester narrowed and the storm is taking a sharper turn north than in previous forecasts. The main Hawaiian islands are no longer in the forecast track for the storm. However, the track could still change and a hurricane watch continues for Maui County and Oahu.
Forecasters no longer expect tropical storm-force winds of 39 mph or greater. However, forecasters said deep tropical moisture around the hurricane will bring increasing showers tonight for Maui County, with the possibility of localized, heavier downpours or thundershowers developing this weekend.
“Hurricane Lester is forecast to approach the state from the east today, and then pass to the northeast of all the main islands this weekend,” the National Weather Service said. “Lester will pass by the Big island early Saturday morning, Maui County on Saturday, Oahu Saturday evening and Kauai Saturday night. …
“Although the forecast track currently keeps the strongest winds and heaviest rains offshore, the local weather will be highly dependent on the exact track that Lester takes as it passes by. Only a small error on the left side of the forecast track would bring a significantly higher threat of damaging winds and flooding rains to the islands.”
The most significant impact from Lester is expected to be very high surf, forecasters said.
A high surf advisory remains in effect until 6 p.m. today for east shores of most islands.
Surf of 6 to 8 feet is expected to rise to 8 to 12 feet today as waves generated by Lester come ashore.
Forecasters said beach-goers should expect strong, breaking waves, shore break and rip currents that could make swimming difficult and dangerous.
Meanwhile, Madeline weakened to a tropical depression southwest of the main Hawaiian islands.
At 5 a.m. Madeline was 445 miles southwest of Honolulu, with sustained winds of 35 mph, moving west at 16 mph.
Madeline is expected to become a remnant low tonight.
Update 2:17 a.m.
Hurricane Lester weakened to a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph and continues to travel west-northwest at 14 mph. Lester will continue moving in this direction over the next few days, forecasters said.
• Cancellations, closures and changes due to Hurricane Lester
• Hawaii County assesses damage from Madeline, prepares for Lester
• Maui’s public schools to shut early Friday as Lester nears
• What you should know to prepare for a hurricane
National Weather Service officials expect Lester to pass by the Big Island early Saturday morning and then the rest of the state by Saturday night.
At 2 a.m. Lester was located about 480 miles east of Hilo and 675 miles east of Honolulu.
A hurricane watch is still in effect for Hawaii and Maui Counties and Oahu.
A high surf advisory still in effect for all eastern facing shores. Surf is expected to be between 6 and 8 feet could reach between 8 to 12 feet by Friday with moderate impacts and strong breaking waves.
All beachgoers, swimmers and surfers are urged to exercise caution and heed all advice given by Ocean Safety officials.
Update 11:05 p.m.
Hurricane Lester weakened slightly Thursday night but remained a powerful Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. Hawaii and Maui counties and Oahu are still under a hurricane watch.
At 11 p.m., Lester’s center was located about 515 miles east of Hilo and about 710 miles east of Honolulu, moving west at 14 mph. The latest forecast shifted slightly north, putting the islands just outside the so-called “cone of uncertainty” for its five-day track. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 40 miles from the storm’s center and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 140 miles
Forecasters with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center expect the center of the hurricane to pass north of Hawaii this weekend and to gradually weaken over the next couple of days. But they caution that “a small deviation from the official forecast track could bring profound impacts to Hawaii.”
Officials said hurricane conditions, which include heavy rain and large surf, are still possible over Hawaii island and Maui County beginning Friday night and continuing through the weekend.
Large swells generated by Lester will peak this weekend, becoming large and possibly damaging along exposed shorelines. A high surf advisory has been issued for all eastern shores.
Update 8:15 p.m.
At 8 p.m., Lester was a major Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph and higher gusts. It was centered 545 miles east of Hilo and 745 miles east of Honolulu.
Lester continues to move west-northwest at 14 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center while tropical storm-force winds extend up to 150 miles.
A hurricane watch is posted for Hawaii County, Maui County and Oahu.
Forecasters said hurricane conditions and heavy rains may reach Oahu on Saturday night, with tropical storm conditions possibly developing as early as Saturday afternoon. Hawaii and Maui counties could see hurricane conditions and heavy rains on Saturday, with tropical storm conditions possibly developing as early as Friday night.
Surf is expected to build over east-facing shores tonight and Friday.
Update 5 p.m.
Oahu has been added to the hurricane watch already covering Hawaii and Maui counties as powerful Hurricane Lester approaches the state from the east.
A watch means hurricane wind conditions are possible in the next 48 hours.
At 5 p.m., Lester was a major Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph and high gusts. It was centered 595 miles east of Hilo and 790 miles east of Honolulu. Lester has started its expected move to a more northwesterly track, moving west-northwest at 14 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center while tropical storm-force winds extend up to 150 miles.
The latest forecast from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center on Oahu has it weakening, but still a hurricane, as it moves just north of the entire island chain through the Labor Day weekend.
Forecasters said they expect this general motion to continue during the next 48 hours, with little change in intensity tonight, followed by gradual weakening.
However they urge the public not to focus on the exact projected track. “Any small deviation from the forecast track could bring direct and profound impacts to the state, and this possibility must be considered when making preparations,” they said this evening.
State and local officials encourage the public to make final preparations while the storm is still at least a day away.
Forecasters said hurricane conditions, of winds of 74 mph or more, are possible over Hawaii and Maui counties Saturday, with tropical storm conditions, 39 mph or more winds, possible by late Friday night. Hurricane-force winds are possible over Oahu Saturday night, with tropical storm-force winds possible Saturday afternoon. Surf will peak this weekend, becoming large and damaging along portions of eastern shores, forecasters said, while heavy rains may reach Hawaii and Maui counties Saturday, and Oahu Saturday night.
A high surf advisory is in effect for all east-facing shores until 6 p.m. Friday, with 8-to-12 feet waves expected.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, traveling with President Barack Obama to Midway Atoll today, told reporters that the president spoke with FEMA administrator Craig Fugate from Air Force One about hurricane threats in Hawaii and Florida. ”In both states, FEMA officials have been working extensively over the last several days to mobilize resources in support of local efforts,” Earnest said. “The president asked administrator Fugate to keep him up to date on response efforts and to alert him if there are any significant unmet needs. As always it is important for people in potentially affected areas to follow weather reports and follow the instructions from state and local officials.”
Lester is the second hurricane to threaten the state this week. Madeline weakened to a tropical storm and passed just south of the Big Island Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and strong winds, but causing no major damage. As of 5 p.m., Madeline was barely a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, 330 miles south-southwest of Honolulu, and moving west at 13 mph.
Update 2 p.m.
Lester strengthened into a major Category 3 hurricane this afternoon as it continued on a path toward Hawaii.
At 2 p.m., Lester’s winds intensified to 120 mph as it moved west at 14 mph.
The storm was 640 miles east of Hilo and 840 miles east of Honolulu, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Tropical storm-force winds extend 150 miles from the center and hurricane-force winds extend 50 miles from Lester’s center.
Lester is expected to weaken over the next two days, but is expected to be at hurricane strength when it nears Hawaii.
A hurricane watch is posted for Hawaii and Maui counties, where hurricane conditions are possible on Saturday.
More watches and warnings may be posted for other islands tonight or Friday.
A high surf advisory is posted and will likely become a warning as surf generated by Lester’s winds begins arriving on east shores of all islands.
Surf is expected to rise to 8 to 12 feet today.
The large breaking waves, shorebreak and rip currents could make swimming difficult and dangerous, forecasters said.
The waves are expected to rise even higher this weekend, becoming “very large and damaging,” the weather service said.
There is a 3 percent chance of hurricane-strength winds in Hilo, going up to 7 percent in Kahului and 5 percent in Honolulu, forecasters estimated.
The chances of tropical storm force winds are 56 percent in Kahului, 40 percent in Hilo and 49 percent in Honolulu.
“Heavy rains associated with Lester may reach Hawaii and Maui counties on Saturday, and may affect other Hawaiian islands later Saturday and Sunday,” the weather service said.
“For those under a watch, now is the time to prepare,” forecasters said. “Cover all windows and doors with shutters or plywood. Loose objects such as lumber, lawn furniture, garbage cans and other items shou ld be secured or stored indoors. Prepare to brace all exterior doors, including garage doors.
“Prepare for the possibility of extended power outages. If you need to make a tripc to the hardware store, the grocery store or the gas station, do so as early as possible.”
Update 11 a.m.
Defying forecasters’ predictions, Hurricane Lester strengthened slightly this morning, clocking maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, 1 mph shy of Category 3 status.
Lester is continuing on the same track toward the isles, moving west at 13 mph.
At 11 a.m., Lester was 680 miles east of Hilo and 875 miles east of Honolulu.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service still expect a general weakening of the storm over the next 48 hours, combined with a gradual turn toward the west-northwest later today through Saturday.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.
A hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours, remains posted for Hawaii and Maui counties.
A high surf advisory is also in effect for all east-facing shores. Waves generated by Lester’s winds are expected to reach 8 to 12 feet today, creating rip currents and waves breaking on shore. The currents and strong breaking waves could make swimming difficult and dangerous and all beach-goers, even those not entering the water, should exercise caution and heed advice given by lifeguards, forecasters said.
The National Weather Service put Hawaii and Maui counties under a hurricane watch this morning as Hurricane Lester continues moving toward Hawaii.
More watches and warnings could be posted today depending on Lester’s track.
The storm weakened overnight to a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 105 mph. It’s expected to continue to weaken, but may still be a Category 1 hurricane when it passes near the state.
At 8 a.m., Lester was 720 miles east of Hilo and 920 miles east of Honolulu, moving west at 13 mph.
Lester is expected to take a turn to the west-northwest, which should keep its center northeast of the Hawaiian islands.
But forecasters caution that even a slight change to the south could bring Lester dangerously close to Hawaii.
Lester’s hurricane-force winds extend up to 35 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 105 miles.
“The current Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecast brings Lester very close to the main Hawaiian islands Saturday and Sunday. Depending on the exact track that Lester takes, strong damaging winds and heavy rainfall are possible. Large and damaging surf is expected for east shores as well,” forecasters said. “It is still too early to determine which island is at most risk from Lester.”
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. The storm dropped heavy rain on Hawaii island, leaving the ground saturated and increasing the potential for flooding, if Lester brings more significant rain.
All islands are under a wind advisory today because of strong tradewinds associated with the former hurricane as it moves well south of the rest of the state.
Forecasters expect breezy tradewind weather conditions today and Friday with showers likely in windward and mauka areas and scattered showers in leeward areas.
Muggy conditions ahead of Lester will begin moving over the islands this afternoon through Friday night, increasing the chance of showers. Winds could also pick up. Forecasters said tropical storm conditions are possible Friday through Sunday.
Winds will initially come from the northeast and north as Lester passes north of the state. But the winds will shift to Kona winds Sunday after Lester passes, bringing tropical moisture up from the south and the chance of heavy showers through Monday, even after the storm leaves the immediate area.
Forecasters said people should prepare for Lester ahead of any bad weather.
“For those under a watch, now is the time to prepare. Secure or bring indoors, any loose outdoor objects like lawn furniture, children’s toys, hanging plants, barbecue grills or any item that could become a destructive projectile in strong winds. Do not wait until it is too late.
“Stay calm and keep informed,” forecasters said. “Residents and visitors are urged to closely monitor the latest forecasts in association with Lester from the CPHC, as impacts are possible across all of the Hawaiian islands during the holiday weekend. … Be ready to evacuate if necessary. Heed the advice of local officials and comply with any orders that are issued. Persons living near the shore should be prepared to evacuate quickly should building surf threaten.”