KAILUA-KONA — The powerful Pacific storm churning toward Hawaii became a hurricane but remained far enough away from the islands to allow tourists to make the most of Friday’s remaining sunny weather.
The National Weather Service said Friday that Ana became a Category 1 hurricane about 230 miles south of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.
A tropical storm watch was in effect throughout the archipelago.
The NWS said that although Ana has strengthened to a hurricane, it is tracking so far south that there is “little chance” that hurricane-force winds would be felt in Hawaii.
“Any of the islands could experience tropical storm impacts … so it’s important to still prepare and make plans,” said Chris Brenchley, a weather service meteorologist. The hurricane was expected to strengthen slightly on Friday and then gradually weaken to become a tropical storm again by early Sunday morning, Brenchley said.
Ana was expected to pass 115 miles southwest of the Big Island on Friday night, and to keep the same distance as it passes the rest of the Hawaiian islands over the weekend, but that could change, he said.
Swells were picking up on the Big Island’s south shores Friday afternoon, with 15-foot waves seen in Pohoiki Bay. Waves churned up by Ana could be as high as 10 to 20 feet throughout Hawaii’s South shores.
But the waves remained small on Oahu on Friday morning, where surfers and paddle boarders caught a few rides at Waikiki Beach.
Tourists Kim and Adam Stocker from New Hampshire were exploring the Big Island’s Westside, and weren’t going to let a storm interfere with their first trip to Hawaii.
“It’s like ‘I don’t care, I’m going. Hurricane or not,” said Adam Stocker, 49. “I got the time off. It’s already paid for.”
Gov. Neil Abercrombie proclaimed an emergency to help the state respond to the storm.
The storm is moving about 14 miles per hour. It will be farther from the coast than predicted, and will be a hurricane for a shorter period than previously thought, forecasters said.
Iniki slammed into Kauai as a Category 4 hurricane in 1992, killing six people and destroying more than 1,400 homes.
The weather service issued a flash flood watch for the entire state from Friday through Sunday, indicating flooding is possible anywhere in the archipelago.
The soil in the Kau district on the Big Island already is heavily saturated from recent thunderstorms, raising the risk of flooding there.