Cat 5 cyclone aims for Big Island

Major Hurricane Lane, a Category 4 storm, is heading toward Hawaii, forecasters warn

Hurricane watch posted as Lane approaches

Accuweather reports that Hurricane Lane gained wind speed overnight, turning from a Category 4 into a Category 5, and could bring record damage to the Hawaiian islands, though the storm is expected to weaken as it crosses through cooler waters on Wednesday.

The California Task Force 8 will be sending 35 members to Kauai before Hurricane Lane, which strengthened to a Category 5 storm early Wednesday. Roofs and walls will collapse.

- Extensive wind damage to property with possible power outages.

Damaging tropical-storm-force winds on the Big Island could start as early as this afternoon or evening, with unsafe hurricane force winds possible by tonight.

Iniki's unexpected movement meant the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) failed to warn Hawaiians until less than 24 hours before it hit, with forecasters incorrectly assuming the system would pass south of the islands.

"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.

Lane was about 505km south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, at 5am Hawaii time, USA forecasters said.

While tropical storms and hurricanes regularly roam in the waters nearby Hawaii, direct effects from storms as intense as Lane are unusual, and its population is not well-accustomed to them.

The state closed all government offices on Maui and the Big Island starting Wednesday.

The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year, and Hawaii rarely gets hit.

The hurricane, which is forecast to begin pummeling the islands later today (Aug. 22), has already prompted the governor of Hawaii to declare a state of emergency.

The Big Island is still reeling from a three-month eruption of Kilauea volcano, which forced thousands of residents to evacuate their homes and engulfed hundreds of structures in lava. Early indications showed that the south end of the island up to the western side would be taking the brunt of the storm.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the city has also issued an emergency proclamation and on Tuesday urged residents to take the storm "very seriously".

He reminded people to have emergency kits ready and to "withdraw cash".

He said: "A lot of people are comparing the similarities between Iniki and Lane".

Hawaiian Airlines is waiving change fees for tickets to, from, within and through Hawaii from Tuesday through Sunday.

"One thing is for sure, the coast will continue to feel the impacts of swell, gradually increasing with the approaching storm to a peak around mid-week with strong surf (large waves for some of the well-exposed areas)", Warren said.

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