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Powerful Hurricane Walaka brushes past Johnston Atoll on its way to Papahanaumokuakea

  • COURTESY CPHC

    Hurricane Walaka is on track to hit Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

  • COURTESY NOAA

    This enhanced satellite image shows powerful Hurricane Walaka well southwest of the main Hawaiian islands.

UPDATE: 11:15 p.m.

Hurricane Walaka was pounding Johnston Atoll and is on track to slam Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument next.

At 11 p.m. Tuesday, Walaka remained a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and higher gusts, moving north at 13 mph. Walaka’s eye was 100 miles north-northwest of Johnston Atoll and 465 miles south-southwest of French Frigate Shoals in Papahanaumokuakea.

Hurricane-force winds extend out 40 miles from Walaka’s center and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 185 miles, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

A hurricane warning remains in effect for Johnston Atoll and for Papahanaumokuakea from French Frigate Shoals to Maro Reef; a tropical storm warning is in effect for Papahanaumokuakea from Nihoa to French Frigate Shoals. The center is expected to pass between French Frigate Shoals and Gardner Pinnacles Wednesday night, forecasters said.

“Walaka is forecast to reach Papahanaumokuakea (northwest of the main Hawaiian islands) Wednesday night,” they said, “Some gradual weakening is expected through Thursday, but Walaka is forecast to remain a hurricane as it passes across the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument late Wednesday.”

5:40 p.m.

Hurricane Walaka, which is weakening but still a Category 4 storm, was bringing heavy rain, strong winds and high surf to now-uninhabited Johnston Atoll, well southwest of the main Hawaiian islands.

As of 5 p.m., Walaka had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph, the minimum strength for a Category 4 designation, as was centered just 45 miles west of Johnston Island, the largest of the atoll’s four islands. Hurricane-force winds extend out 40 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend out 185 miles.

On Monday, a U.S. Coast Guard crew from Oahu flew to the island and evacuated four U.S. Fish & Wildlife biologists who were working at the wildlife refuge.

Walaka, which was 560 miles south-southwest of French Frigate Shoals in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, was moving north at 13 mph, forecasters said.

“Weakening is expected over the next few days, but Walaka is expected to remain a hurricane as it passes across the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument,” they said.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Johnston Atoll and for Papahanaumokuakea from French Frigate Shoals to Maro Reef; a tropical storm warning is in effect for Papahanaumokuakea from Nihoa to French Frigate Shoals. The center is expected to pass between French Frigate Shoals and Gardner Pinnacles Wednesday night, forecasters said.

By the end of the week, Walaka is expected to weaken to a post-tropical storm as it moves northeast hundreds of miles north of the main Hawaiian islands.

12:50 p.m.

Walaka remains a major hurricane as it nears Johnston Atoll.

Walaka was located about 85 miles south-southwest of Johnston Atoll and 625 miles south-southwest of French Frigate Shoals at 11 a.m. today, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Walaka was clocked with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph while moving north at 10 mph.

This general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday night with a steady increase in forward speed. On the forecast track, the center of Walaka is expected to pass just to the west of Johnston later today, then across portions of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on Wednesday night.

Slight weakening is expected through tonight, with rapid weakening forecast Wednesday and Thursday.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

Johnston Atoll and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — from Nihoa to French Frigate Shoals to Maro Reef — are under a hurricane warning.

8 a.m.

Hurricane Walaka continued to weaken this morning but remains a major hurricane headed toward Johnston Atoll.

Walaka was located about 115 miles south-southwest of Johnston Atoll and 905 miles west-southwest of Honolulu at 8 a.m. today, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Walaka was clocked with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph while moving north at 10 mph.

This general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday night with a steady increase in forward speed. On the forecast track, the center of Walaka is expected to pass just to the west of Johnston later today.

Little change in intensity is expected through tonight, with rapid weakening expected Wednesday and Wednesday night.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

Johnston Atoll is under a hurricane warning, while Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — from Nihoa to French Frigate Shoals to Maro Reef — is under a hurricane watch.

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Hurricane Walaka weakened slightly overnight but remains a major hurricane headed toward Johnston Atoll.

Now a Category 4 storm, Walaka was located about 140 miles south-southwest of Johnston Atoll and 915 miles west-southwest of Honolulu at 5 a.m. today, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Walaka was clocked with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph while moving north at 10 mph.

This general motion is expected to continue through Wednesday night with a steady increase in forward speed. On the forecast track, the center of Walaka is expected to pass just to the west of Johnston later today.

Little change in intensity is expected through tonight, with rapid weakening expected Wednesday and Wednesday night.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

Johnston Atoll is under a hurricane warning, while Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument — from Nihoa to French Frigate Shoals to Maro Reef — is under a hurricane watch.

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