Hawaii residents brace themselves as Hurricane Lane strengthens to category 5

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, ramen, toilet paper and other supplies as they faced the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and high surf as a strengthening hurricane continued to churn toward the state.

On Tuesday night, the National Weather Service announced that Hurricane Lane had become a Category 5 hurricane, which means that it is likely to cause catastrophic damage with winds 157 mph or above. The hurricane is about 500 miles (804 kilometers) southeast of Honolulu.

Earlier Tuesday, the weather service issued a hurricane warning for Hawaii island and a hurricane watch for Oahu, Maui and other smaller islands, meaning tropical storm-force winds, excessive rain and large swells could arrive starting Wednesday.

There's uncertainty to Lane's path

Hurricane Lane "is forecast to move dangerously close to the main Hawaiian islands as a hurricane later this week, potentially bringing damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding from heavy rainfall," the weather service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center warned as it got closer to the state.

The storm had been moving west, but it is expected to turn northwest toward the state Wednesday. There's uncertainty to Lane's path — whether it moves north or south, meteorologist Gavin Shigesato said.

"It is much too early to confidently determine which, if any, of the main Hawaiian islands will be directly impacted by Lane," the weather service said.

Look back at 1992's devastating Hurricane Andrew
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Look back at 1992's devastating Hurricane Andrew
Ten years ago, on the week of August 24th, 1992, Atlantic-born Hurricane Andrew ripped through south Florida, barreled its way northwest across the Gulf of New Mexico, and slammed into Louisiana roughly one hundred miles southwest of New Orleans. Along the way, the Category 5 hurricane gave rise to 18-foot (5.5-meter) storm surges that inundated coastal towns and maximum sustained winds of 165 miles (266 kilometer) per hour that reduced entire neighborhoods to kindling. In the end, Andrew resulted in $25 billion in damages (1992 dollars) and more than 60 deaths, directly and indirectly through flooding. The above image of Andrew was taken on August 25, 1992, at 20:20 UT. Looking at the image, one can see Andrew?s path laid out behind it in the form of churned-up, reddish brown ocean sediments and residual cloud cover. Flooding can be seen along the coast of so (Photo by NASA/Handout/Corbis via Getty Images)
A split image shows Hurricane Andrew as seen from GOES-7 (Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite) , top, along with a simulation of the view from NOAA's GOES-I, slated to be launched in the spring of 1994. GOES-I will distinguish 1024 different shades of gray in visible cloud images like this one (lower half of image). The current series of GOES can only see 64 shades of gray. This improved dynamic range will allow forecasters to track smaller storm features with greater accuracy. The GOES system is a basic element of U.S. weather monitoring and forecast operations. NASA and NOAA are in a cooperative program to continue the GOES system with the launch of the GOES I-M satellites. (Photo by � CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
MIAMI, UNITED STATES: An unidentified woman jumps across a flooded street in Coconut Grove, Miami, 24 August 1992, in front of a sailboat washed ashore by Hurricane Andrew. Andrew swept across the southern Miami area with 150-mph winds. (Photo credit should read TONY RANZE/AFP/Getty Images)
Miami firemen clear downed trees from a road following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Photograph of Hurricane Andrew, at the time it was the most destructive hurricane in United States history. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
KENDALL, FL - AUGUST 24: Vidal Martinez holds his head 24 August 1992 while viewing the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in front of what is left of his trailer at the Flowers Trailer Park, Florida. Hurricane Andrew smashed ashore before dawn 24 August devastating southern Florida. (Photo credit should read ANDY ITKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 24: Wrecked boats sit on the sea wall 24 August 1992 at the docks at Dinner Key in the Coconut Grove area of the city after Hurricane Andrew passed through southern Florida. Andrew was the strongest hurricane to hit southern Florida in 40 years. (Photo credit should read ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Remnants of a trailer park following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by ?? Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
A white car sits among flattened buildings following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by ?? Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
A woman rummages through the remains of her home following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Only piles of rubble remain of a trailer park following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by ?? Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
A grocery store posts a sign letting victims of Hurricane Andrew know that they are out of food and water. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Houses were reduced to rubble from Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
A Miami home lays in ruins following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Signs threatening bodily harm to looters are posted on boarded buildings following Hurricane Andrew. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
An apartment destroyed by Hurricane Andrew overlooks a Miami waterway. (Photo by � Steve Starr/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
RESERVE, LA - AUGUST 29: Carlos Cabrera, Jr. holds his four-year-old son, Adrian amidst the rubble remaining of his home 28 August 1992 after Hurricane Andrew spawned a tornado 26 August that destroyed his house and killed his father. Carlos Cabrera, Sr. was the first Louisiana casualty of two reported thus far. AFP PHOTO Thomm Scott (Photo credit should read THOM SCOTT/AFP/Getty Images)

But the hurricane center said the storm will move very close to or over the islands from Thursday through Saturday. Even if the center of Lane doesn't make landfall, the islands could be walloped with rain and wind.

Public schools on the Big Island and in Maui County are closed Wednesday until further notice.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige is allowing non-essential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave from Wednesday to Friday as Hurricane Lane approaches. Employees on Hawaii and Maui islands who work in disaster response as well as in hospitals and prisons are required to report to their jobs, the governor said.

Longtime Hawaii residents recalled a devastating 1992 hurricane as they prepared for Hurricane Lane.

'Scariest sounds I've ever heard in my life'

Kauai resident Mike Miranda was 12 when Hurricane Iniki devastated the island 26 years ago. "A lot of people are comparing the similarities between Iniki and Lane," he said.

Iniki's turn into the islands was sudden, he recalled.

"I remember how very little rain fell. But I remember the wind being the strongest force of nature I've ever witnessed and probably the scariest sounds I've ever heard in my life," he said.

Utility poles were down all over the island, and his 7th-grade classes were held in Army tents for several months.

Miranda said his family is used to preparing for hurricane season.

"A lot of people who moved here and never experienced a hurricane . they're the ones rushing to the store," he said.

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