Hawaii ‘dodged a bullet,’ as Lane weakens to tropical storm

HONOLULU -- Hawaii residents breathed a sigh of relief as Hurricane Lane disintegrated into a tropical storm, but authorities warned that its thrashing winds and relentless rain will remain a threat into the weekend.

Lane dumped more than 40 inches of rain in some parts of the Big Island over several days, sending residents fleeing life-threatening flash flooding and landslides.

Lane's threat came as Maui residents also battled two brush fires, including one that caused evacuations in a resort area.

It weakened to a tropical storm Friday, a major downgrade for what was a Category 3 hurricane just a day earlier.

Further weakening is forecast through the weekend, with Lane expected to become "a remnant low" by late Saturday or Sunday, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said.

The islands "dodged a bullet," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. While they will not face the full fury of a Category 3 hurricane, residents and tourists should remain vigilant as heavy rains, flash floods and landslides are still a threat.

On Saturday, Lane's maximum sustained winds were near 60 mph with higher gusts, according to the center's latest bulletin. The storm is 115 miles (175 kilometers) south-southwest of Honolulu.

It's "moving slowly south of the western Hawaiian islands," and its outer rain bands are bringing severe floods to parts of the islands, the center said.

"Lane is moving toward the northwest near 3 mph (5 km/h). A turn toward the west and an increase in forward speed is expected starting this afternoon or tonight. This westward motion is forecast to continue through Sunday, " the center said. "On the forecast track, the center of Lane will pass south of Kauai and Niihau later today and tonight."

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Oahu and Maui counties, while a tropical storm watch was in effect for Kauai County. "Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 125 miles (205 kilometers) from the center" of the storm, the hurricane center said. A warning means tropical storm conditions are expected while a watch means tropical storm conditions are possible.

"Lane's outer rain bands will produce excessive rainfall this weekend, which could lead to additional flash flooding and landslides. Lane is expected to produce additional rain accumulations of 5 to 10 inches in some areas. Localized storm total amounts well in excess of 40 inches have already been observed along the windward side of the Big Island," the latest bulletin said. "High surf is expected along exposed south and east shorelines of the main Hawaiian Islands today."

Lane has had little impact on Kīlauea Volcano, which has been erupting since early May, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO). Experts noted minor rockfalls at the summit and increased steaming from Puʻu ʻŌʻō and LERZ vents. Whiteout conditions are also possible on the new lava field, HVO said, because of the steam produced by heavy rainfall on still-hot lava flows.

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Gov. David Ige said there is still a potential for flooding and first responders remain on the job. Tropical Storm Lane's slow, lingering movement means it will dump more rain in the area, potentially leading to more flooding, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Despite the flooding and landslides making headlines nationwide, many tourists were unfazed, with nearly 300,000 currently visiting the state, US Sen. Mazie Hirono said.