HONOLULU – Hurricane Olivia is likely to approach Hawaii as a high-end tropical storm or a low-end hurricane in the coming days, predictors said Monday.
"The difference between the two is very small, so we really have to prepare ourselves as if it were a hurricane," said Maureen Ballard, a meteorologist at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Olivia was 435 miles (700 kilometers) east of Hilo and moved 9 mph (15 km per hour) at 11 am local time. It had a maximum sustained wind of 75 mph (120 km per hour).
Predictors say that Olivia drops 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain on the Big Island and Maui County, although some areas can get 20 inches (50 centimeters).
Wil Okabe, managing director of the province of Hawaii, said that work teams were sent to neighborhoods and parts of highways that were flooded and suffered from landslides during Hurricane Lane last month.
"By having people in the neighborhood to follow the situation, to search for the signals, we can react much faster," said Okabe. The province is also preparing to open shelters.
Lane dumped more than 52 centimeters of rain on the Big Island and marked the second highest rainfall in the nation for a tropical cyclone since 1950. Almost 40 people had to be saved from flooding, while about 200 people reported damage to their homes Big Island because of Lane.
Hurricane Harvey, which covered more than 60 centimeters of rain in Texas last year, is the wettest tropical cyclone in the country in record time.
The ground has been dry since Lane, so there's no reason why it's already saturated before the Olivia arrives, Okabe said.
"We do not need hurricanes anymore, let's hope it's just over, but that's unlikely," he said.
Keith Regan, managing director of Maui County, urged visitors to stay away from the city of Hana and the narrow winding road that leads there. Hana Highway is a popular route for visitors to the island and can experience some of the biggest effects of the storm.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige says the state would place roadside equipment in Hana before the storm arrives, so crews are ready to respond if the highway is blocked.
Oahu and Kauai are expected to receive 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters) of rain, although the rainfall in some areas may reach 20 to 25 centimeters.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the workers in Oahu were working hard to remove debris from streams. He warned against complacency, noting tropical storms have led to flooding in Honolulu in recent years.
"We do not know what it will look like when Olivia approaches the Hawaiian islands, so please, people, do not let your guard down," Caldwell said.
The prognosis shows the middle of the hurricane that runs through a canal between the Big Island and Maui. But the officials emphasized that there is uncertainty about the exact path of the storm.
"It is important that we do not focus on the prediction trail, which could directly affect every part of the state from South Point to the north coast of Kauai," said Tom Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. .