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Douglas strengthens into major hurricane

  • CIRA/NOAA
                                A series of satellite images from Tuesday at noon through 1:50 a.m. today shows the progress of the tropical-storm-turned-hurricane Douglas.

    CIRA/NOAA

    A series of satellite images from Tuesday at noon through 1:50 a.m. today shows the progress of the tropical-storm-turned-hurricane Douglas.

  • COURTESY NOAA
                                This color-enhanced satellite image shows Douglas in the eastern Pacific late Tuesday night.

    COURTESY NOAA

    This color-enhanced satellite image shows Douglas in the eastern Pacific late Tuesday night.

  • COURTESY NOAA Forecast as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.

    COURTESY NOAA

    Forecast as of 11 p.m. Tuesday.

UPDATE: 10:45 p.m.

Hurricane Douglas is now a major hurricane, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said tonight.

Winds have increased to 120 mph for the Category 3 hurricane. Douglas is located about 1,470 miles east-southeast of Hilo and is moving toward the west-northwest near 17 mph. This general motion is expected to continue through Saturday.

Some additional strengthening is possible on Thursday. Gradual weakening is forecast to begin by early Friday.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu said today that Douglas could cause flooding throughout the islands starting this weekend.

4:50 p.m.

Hurricane Douglas strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane this afternoon, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

The storm had 100 mph maximum sustained winds and was 1,570 miles east-southeast of Hilo, moving west-northwest at 17 mph, as of late this afternoon.

Additional strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours, and Douglas is forecast to become a major hurricane by Thursday, forecasters said in their 5 p.m. update.

The maximum sustained winds are expected to peak at 125 mph Thursday before weakening begins Friday.

But Douglas is still expected to be at or near hurricane intensity as it approaches the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday. The five-day forecast has it moving west through or near the island chain through Monday when it is forecast to have tropical storm-force winds of 60 mph.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu warns that Douglas, the first East Pacific hurricane of the 2020 season, could cause flooding throughout the islands starting this weekend.

“The potentially close passage of this cyclone to the state may result in very heavy rainfall and flash flooding,” forecasters said today. “The heavy rainfall should progress westward across the chain, possibly beginning as early as Saturday night.”

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UPDATE: 10:45 a.m.

Hurricane Douglas continues to strengthen in the East Pacific and could become a major Category 3 hurricane by Thursday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

By late morning, the storm had 80 mph maximum sustained winds and was 1,690 miles east-southeast of Hilo, moving west at 16 mph.

“Additional strengthening is forecast during the next day or two, and Douglas could become a major hurricane on Thursday,” forecasters said in their 11 a.m. update. The current forecast has the storm reaching its peak wind strength of 115 mph on Thursday.

As of late this morning, hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 10 miles from the center, and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 105 miles, they said.

“Douglas could maintain hurricane intensity as it approaches the Hawaiian Islands, and all interests on the islands should monitor the forecasts as they evolve over the next few days,” the hurricane center said.

The storm is projected to have maximum sustained winds of 75 mph as it nears the Big Island Sunday, and 65 mph on Monday as it moves west.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu said this morning that the forecast for this weekend will highly depend on the development of Douglas, but that there are increasing chances of heavy rain and strong winds could affect portions of the state beginning Sunday. Forecasters stressed that it is still too early to tell which islands will be affected by the approaching cyclone. (See story below.)

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Hurricane Douglas formed in the eastern Pacific overnight and is forecast to approach Hawaii by early next week as a powerful tropical storm.

“Douglas is expected to move near or over portions of the Hawaiian Islands this weekend, and there is an increasing chance that strong winds and heavy rainfall could affect portions of the state beginning on Sunday,” the National Hurricane Center in Miami said this morning. “Interests on the Hawaiian Islands should continue to monitor the progress of Douglas.”

Douglas is the first hurricane of the East Pacific season.

Forecasters said at 5 a.m. today that Douglas had strengthened from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and centered 1,785 miles east-southeast of Hilo, moving west at 15 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles and tropical-storm-force winds of 39 mph or more extend 80 miles from Douglas’ center, the weather service said.

Douglas, which grew into a tropical storm Monday afternoon, intensified quickly and is expected to continue strengthening as it heads into the Central Pacific later this week.

“Additional strengthening is expected during the next day or two. Some weakening could begin on Friday once Douglas begins to move over cooler water,” forecasters said.

Forecasters expect Douglas to threaten the Big Island as a strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph by Sunday.

RELATED STORY: Hawaii officials urge residents to prepare for hurricane season

However, it is too soon to offer a more detailed forecast of Douglas’ impacts at this time, said National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Wroe. NWS will continue to monitor the progress of Hurricane Douglas closely.

“The picture slowly gets clearer over time,” said Wrote. “We urge everyone to continue to follow the forecast. Now would be a great time for people to look at any plan they might have, or if they don’t have one, to get one in order. We’re in the middle of hurricane season now.”

Light winds are expected to continue today, along with an increase in afternoon clouds and showers for interior areas.

Today’s forecast is mostly cloudy, with scattered afternoon showers for most isles, with highs from 86 to 91 degrees Fahrenheit and east winds of 5 to 15 mph. Tonight is also expected to be mostly cloudy, with scattered showers and lows from 69 to 74.

Variable winds of up to 15 mph strengthen to trades of 15 to 20 mph after midnight.

The winds are expected to pick up again Thursday through Friday due to a surface trough making its way west over the islands, but this is unrelated to Douglas, according to Wroe.

Surf today remains low, as well, with surf along north and west facing shores at 1 to 3 feet through Thursday, and surf along south shores at 2 to 4 feet through Thursday.

Surf along east shores is expected to rise today, to 3 to 5 feet, due to a new northeast swell, which should hold into Thursday, then lower Friday.

Forecasters say the potential for rough conditions along east shores is possible later this weekend due to strong winds and rising surf associated with Douglas.

The forecast for this weekend, however, will depend highly on the development of Douglas, with more details on the eventual track and intensity of the approaching hurricane in the next day or so.

The current five-day forecast has Douglas hitting its peak as a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 late Thursday. By Monday, the storm is projected to be south of Oahu with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, the hurricane center said.

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