Hurricane warnings and watches have been issued across Hawaii after the National Weather Service (NWS) Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu advised that Hurricane Lane has now strengthened to a Category 5 storm.
It is currently located around 600km south-southeast of Hilo and is packing winds of 260km/h with gusts nearer 315km/h. It will weaken over the next few days but it will still be capable of causing catastrophic damage.
Lane is forecast to move dangerously close to the main Hawaiian Islands later this week, potentially bringing damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding from heavy rainfall anywhere in the state.
As Lane is expected to be slow-moving as it nears the islands, it will produce large and damaging surf.
Lane is only the second category 5 hurricane on record to pass within 560km of Hawaii, according to the NWS. The last was Hurricane John in 1994.
As Lane moves up from the southeast, the earliest potential threat to land will be for the Big Island, where a Hurricane Warning is now in effect.
Preparations there are now being rushed to completion as tropical-storm force winds are forecast to arrive in the warning area by late Wednesday or early Thursday.
A Hurricane Watch remains in effect for Maui County, and is now posted for Oahu, with tropical-storm force winds possibly beginning Thursday or Thursday night. Any lava evacuees will now have to seek shelter or move to alternative locations.
There is still a high degree of uncertainty on the forecast track and intensity of Lane. It is too early to predict which, if any, of the islands will be directly impacted.
Life-threatening weather conditions can extend well away from the center of the hurricane and interests throughout Hawaii are urged to closely monitor the progress of Lane over the next few days.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies