Updated 1:15 pm: Hurricane watch posted for Maui County

Hurricane Lane strengthened to a category 5 storm on Tuesday as it headed toward Hawaii, where residents prepared for "life threatening" winds and flooding when it hits the U.S. islands this week, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

The hurricane is about 500 miles (804 kilometers) southeast of Honolulu.

Lane is an extremely strong Category 4 hurricane, bordering on Category 5, with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles an hour. Roofs and walls will collapse, and the winds will knock down trees and power pole.

The extremely powerful Hurricane Lane is closing in on Hawaii, where heavy rain, strong winds and risky surf are expected Thursday into the weekend.

CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV reports a hurricane warning was issued Wednesday for Maui County and a hurricane watch for Kauai County. The current forecast track has the storm making a turn to the northwest sometime Wednesday into Thursday, with the center expected to pass close to the islands of Hawaii and Maui starting on Thursday. Watches may be extended to the western islands, the Hurricane Center said.

"On the forecast track, the center of Lane will move very close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday", forecasters said.

WIND: Tropical storm conditions are expected within the Hurricane Warning area beginning late Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, with hurricane conditions expected somewhere within the warning area on Thursday. The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane watch for parts of Hawaii.

More watches and even warnings could be necessary for additional islands as the storm moves closer in the next day or two.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige is allowing non-essential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave from Wednesday to Friday as Hurricane Lane approaches.

It is not certain what Hurricane Lane's path will be - whether it moves north or south. All after-school activities statewide are canceled for the rest of the week. "We have the two weeks supply of everything on hand - food, water, medication, clinical labs for blood needs, and we can take care of any of the emergencies that would arise".

The Maui Emergency Management Agency says "As Lane approaches Maui County Islands areas may experience tropical storm conditions with winds 30 miles per hour or greater starting on Thursday Morning".

Residents can find information about how to prepare here.

With the storm's impending arrival, Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for Kona Community and Kohala hospitals, said staff has been working to ensure both facilities are ready should people need care. It declares counties of "Hawai'i, Maui, Kalawao, Kaua'i and the City and County of Honolulu disaster areas for the objective of implementing emergency management functions", his office said.

  • Joey Payne