Residents prepare as hurricane near Hawaii strengthens

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The National Weather Service said in a statement: "Lane is forecast to pass near the Hawaiian Islands this week, potentially bringing dangerously strong winds, rough seas and large swells".

While there is still considerable uncertainty in the forecast for Lane, it appears the storm will be passing close enough to the islands on Thursday and Friday to bring significant impacts to the southern portions of the islands, especially along the coastline. "Regardless of the exact track of the center, major impacts are likely in some areas as the hurricane makes its closest approach".

The service said hurricane conditions are expected within the warning area, in Hawaii County, on Thursday, while tropical storm conditions would affect the "watch" area starting Thursday.

The storm is about 375 miles (605 km) south-southeast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour (260 km/h), the NHC said.

Tropical storm-force winds and torrential rain could start arriving on Wednesday. Deep tropical moisture associated with Lane will spread across all islands. Storm rainfall amounts of 10 to 15 inches with local amounts greater than 20 inches are possible. The watch will go into effect from tomrrow (Wednesday) morning through Friday afternoon. As Lane is expected to be slow-moving as it nears the islands, it will produce large and damaging surf. Wave heights of 6 to 12 feet are expected.

The Category 4 storm is expected to cause widespread destruction when it makes landfall later this week. This may lead to risky rip currents. Swimmers should stay clear of beaches until lifeguards and law enforcement officials say the water is safe.

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"Data from the NOAA P-3 aircraft indicate that Lane has strengthened to a category 5 hurricane, and this special advisory represents an update to the current intensity, and the forecast intensity through the first 36 hours", the forecasters reported.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area, according to the National Weather Service's (NWS) Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu.

The storm had been moving west, but it is expected to turn northwest toward the state Wednesday.

Hawaii residents are bracing for "life threatening" winds and flooding when Hurricane Lane hits the U.S. islands this week, potentially uprooting trees and causing rivers to overflow their banks, according to the National Weather Service.

The weather service urges residents and visitors to keep informed about the movements of Lane and to be prepared to evacuate immediately.

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