July 29 (Bloomberg) — A weakening Tropical Storm Flossie closed ports and kicked up “dangerous surf” as it churned toward Hawaii, threatening to become the first such system to strike the state in 21 years.
The storm, with top sustained winds of 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour, down from 60 mph, was 65 miles north- northeast of Hilo at 11 a.m. local time, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu said. It was moving west-northwest at 18 mph.
Flossie was expected to move across Maui later today, then pass just south of Oahu and Kauai, the center said.
“Heavy rainfall is expected to begin shortly over Hawaii County and later this afternoon over Maui County, with heavy rain spreading to Oahu tonight,” the center said. “This rainfall could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in the mountains.”
Hawaii has not been hit by a tropical storm or hurricane since Hurricane Iniki in 1992, said Kristina Pydynowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
That was the most powerful system to strike the state in recent history, with Category 4-force winds of 140 mph when it crossed Kauai, according to a center analysis. Six deaths were linked to the storm and 1,421 homes were destroyed.
Pydynowski said there is a possibility Flossie may weaken to below tropical storm status by the time it reaches the islands. A storm must maintain winds of at least 39 mph to be a tropical storm.
As much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain may fall in some areas as the storm moves across the islands, the center said.
The ports of Hilo and Kawaihae on Hawaii and Kahului on Maui were closed, according to a U.S. Coast Guard statement. Governor Neil Abercrombie issued an emergency proclamation in advance of the storm to free up disaster funds for overtime and other expenses, according to a statement.
The order also allows Abercrombie to call out the National Guard if necessary.
“The islands will have dangerous surf and there is a chance of coastal flooding with the high waves crashing on shore,” Pydynowski said.
There may be wind gusts as intense as 40 mph in Honolulu overnight, she said.
“Then the weather will improve as we go into tomorrow,” Pydynowski said.
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