5 rescued from flooding as hurricane pelts Hawaii with rain

HONOLULU (AP) — Hurricane Lane unleashed torrents of rain and landslides that blocked roads on Hawaii's mostly rural Big Island on Thursday as residents and tourists in the state's biggest city braced for the dangerous storm to come their way.

Emergency workers rescued five people from a flooded house in Hilo after a nearby gulch overflowed, said Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe. They weren't injured and were taken to a shelter, he said.

On the state's most populated island, which is about 200 miles (320 kilometers) north of the Big Island, employees of the Sheraton Waikiki resort filled sandbags to protect the Oahu oceanfront hotel from surging surf. Stores along Waikiki's glitzy Kalakaua Avenue stacked sandbags along the bottom of their glass windows to prepare for heavy rain and flash flooding.

Hurricane Lane, which was still offshore, already lashed the Big Island with nearly 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain in nearly 24 hours and was moving closer, putting it and Maui "in the thick" of the storm, National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Dye said. The agency says the storm has weakened to a Category 3 but can still cause major damage.

The hurricane, which was packing maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (193 kph), was expected to move close to or over portions of the main islands later Thursday or Friday, bringing dangerous surf of 20 feet (6 meters), forecasters said.

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Hawaii prepares for Hurricane Lane
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Hawaii prepares for Hurricane Lane
Nina Roberts shops for last minute supplies while shelves remain empty as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
A photo taken from the International Space Station and moved on social media by astronaut Ricky Arnold shows Hurricane Lane in the early morning hours near Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. Courtesy @astro_ricky/NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A long line of cars wait as people fill up their vehicles with gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/ Sue Horton
Mark Antolin and his son load sand to fill sand bags into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
People walk along a calm Hanalei Beach as Hurricane Lane approaches Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Sue Horton
Luke Yamanuha loads plywood into his truck as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Paul Akamine fills propane tanks as customers line up as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 22, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Lane Endo of the Alapahoe outrigger canoe club checks their canoes after moving them off the beach to higher ground as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Wilder Chok gets gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: Local surfers, Ryan Nowak, left, and Jameson Iereneo enjoy a gorgeous day of waves unperturbed by Hurricane Lane's expected landfall in Waikiki in just two days as seen from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort's Lagoon & Beach on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: With more than 270,000 visitors in Hawaii and the majority on Oahu, the tourists enjoy a gorgeous day at the beach unperturbed by Hurricane Lane's expected landfall in Waikiki in just two days as seen from the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort's Lagoon & Beach on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 Frank Dias, owner of Scubatech Marine Service prepare a clients 1975 Skipjack Yacht, 'Sweet Leilani,' out of Kaneohe, Hawaii for the possible impact of Hurricane Lane by doubling the tie downs at the Waikiki Yacht Club at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: Wenkai He, left, waits his turn to fill up his 3 gallon water jug for just $1.50, while Alex Krivoulian fills three times as many water jugs at Safeway on Kapahulu in preparation for Hurricane Lane on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: Cars line up for Diesel fuel only at the Hele station on Kapahulu Avenue in preparation for the possible impact of Hurricane Lane because the station ran out of regular gas earlier on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 Brayden Nueku, 19, an employee of Frank Dias' Scubatech Marine Service removes the Icen Glass while preparing a clients 1975 Skipjack Yacht, 'Sweet Leilani,' out of Kaneohe, Hawaii for the possible impact of Hurricane Lane at the Waikiki Yacht Club at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 A view of of the Waikiki Yacht Club member's valuable boats that have been double and triple tied and prepared as best as possible to weather the 150 mph force winds expected to hit this south shore of Oahu Island next Friday at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: A lounge in Daniel K. Inouye International Airport sits mostly empty as Hurricane Lane approaches the island chain on August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 22: 2018 Avid SCUBA diver, Jacquelyn Wu, 30, loads steel SCUBA tanks that weigh 35 pounds each into her 81-year-old captain's car in preparation for hurricane Lane at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. Hurricane Lane is a high-end Category 4 hurricane and remains a threat to the entire island chain. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
Hurricane Lane, upgraded to a Category 5 storm, is pictured approaching Hawaii, U.S. in this August 21, 2018 handout satellite photo obtained by Reuters August 22, 2018. NASA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Surfers ride waves in Waikiki beach ahead of Hurricane Lane approaching the archipielago, in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronen ZILBERMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONEN ZILBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Empty shelves of a supermaket are seen as residents of Oahu are re-stocking their water and non-perishable food supplies as preparation for the looming threat of Hurricane Lane in Oahu, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronen ZILBERMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONEN ZILBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A car drives on a road under dark skies in Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo shows South Point Suds, a laudromat located on the southwestern corner of the island, boarded up in preparation for Hurricane Lane in Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ocean View resident Honey Freitas gets propane tanks filled in preparation for Hurricane Lane at the Ace Hardware in Ocean View, on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Ocean View resident Beverly Brown stocks up on groceries in preparation for Hurricane Lane at the Ocean Market in Ocean View, on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
A resident of Ocean View, a community located on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, loads up his truck with water in preparation for Hurricane Lane on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Steve Stigall assists a customer stocking up on flashlights in preparation for Hurricane Lane at Ace Hardware in Ocean View, on the southwestern corner of the island of Ocean View, Hawaii, on August 22, 2018. - Residents of Hawaii on August 22 were bracing for a rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and emergency supplies. Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight, is packing 155-mile-per-hour winds and is expected to reach the archipelago's Big Island by nightfall. (Photo by Ronit FAHL / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONIT FAHL/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Alapahoe outrigger canoe club move their canoes off the beach to higher ground as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Jean O?Neill and her daughter Ceri Godinez measure and cut wood to board up their house in Hanalei, on Kauai, Hawaii, U.S., August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Sue Horton?
Geoffrey Seidman, owner of Honolulu Beerworks, boards up his brewery as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Mike Gonsalves gathers sand from a beach to fill sand bags as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Honolulu police officer Chad Asuncion monitors the water conditions and warns surfers about the conditions as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
Wilder Chok gets gasoline as Hurricane Lane approaches Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. August 21, 2018. Picture taken August 21, 2018. REUTERS/Hugh Gentry
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 Tesla put up a row of sand bags in front of each door of their international marketplace location to keep property safe from flooding as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 Ugg had the largest amount of sand bags to protect their Kalakaua Avenue store from flooding as any of the other stores as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 The Royal Hawaiian Center closes early on Thursday as a precaution are to keep people and property safe as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
Michael and Paris Mendina, visiting from Sacramento, take a photo of the store closure sign due to Hurricane Lane, as a momento from their visit to Oahu Thursday, August 23, 2018. - Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a Category 3 Thursday August 23, but the storm's slow motion threatened Hawaii with days of rain. Parts of the Big Island were soaked with more than a foot of rain Thursday. (Photo by Ronen ZILBERMAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read RONEN ZILBERMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
HONOLULU, HI - AUGUST 23: 2018 The threat of Hurricane Lane does not deter New York visitors, Valerie Wahl, left, and her sons Leo Wahl, 7, and Ian Wahl, 9, or Mike Baker from Arizona from watching the waves crash against the rocks after sunset as Hurricane Lane approaches Waikiki Beach on Thursday, August 23, 2018 in Honolulu, Hi. (Photo by Kat Wade/Getty Images)
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Lane was not projected to make a direct hit on the islands, but officials warned that even a lesser blow could do significant harm. Some areas could see up to 30 inches (about 80 centimeters) of rain.

"Rain has been nonstop for the last half hour or so, and winds are just starting to pick up," said Pablo Akira Beimler, who lives on the coast in Honokaa on the Big Island. "Our usually quiet stream is raging right now."

Beimler, who posted videos of trees being blown sideways, said staying put is about the only choice he has. The road to Hilo was cut off due to landslides, he said.

United Airlines cancelled its Friday flights to and from Maui. The airline added two additional flights from Honolulu to San Francisco on Thursday to help transport people off the islands.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled all Friday flights by its commuter carrier, Ohana by Hawaiian.

On Oahu, an island of nearly 1 million people, Elisabeth Brinson watching surfers earlier in the day from her balcony on the ninth floor of the Hawaiian Hilton Village in Waikiki. Later Thursday, police on loudspeakers in Waikiki told surfers and swimmers to get out of the water. They said the beach would be closed until further notice.

Hotel staff left a notice that the rooms will still have water and phone service, and a backup generator will power one elevator per building.

Brinson, a native of the United Kingdom now living in Denver, said many shops were closed, and those still open were frantic with people buying food, beer and water to take back to their rooms.

"We knew it was coming, so I tried to just cram as much as I could into the last few days in anticipation so we could cross things off of our list," said Brinson, who is accustomed to hurricanes after living in Florida.

Hawaii's biggest hotels are confident they can keep their guests safe as long as they stay inside, said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association.

Members of his association, which include the state's major hotels, are shifting into high gear with their emergency management plans, he said.

The Marriott Resort Waikiki Beach in Honolulu designated a ballroom on the third floor as a shelter for guests and began removing lounge chairs from around the pool and bar area.

The Queen Kapiolani Hotel brought construction equipment inside from a pool deck that's under renovation. The hotel will encourage guests to stay in their rooms if the weather worsens and evacuate to hallways if it becomes necessary to avoid windows.

"The only concern is those that venture outside of the properties, that would like to hike on a day like this or who would like to still go into the ocean and see what it's like to take a swim or surf in these kind of waters," Hannemann said.

Honolulu shopping malls and office buildings closed early on Thursday and planned to shut their doors Friday.

Shelters were open throughout the islands, with 350 people in them in Oahu. Aid agencies were also working to help Hawaii's sizable homeless population, many of whom live near beaches and streams that could flood.

Because there's not enough shelter space statewide, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Tom Travis urged people who were not in flood zones to stay home.

The National Weather Service downgraded the Big Island to a tropical storm warning, meaning it expects sustained winds of 39 mph (62 kph) to 73 mph (117 kph) to reach the island instead of stronger hurricane force winds.

But a hurricane warning remains in effect for Oahu and Maui County.

The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. Hawaii rarely gets hit. The last major storm to hit was Iniki in 1992. Others have come close in recent years.

Because people in Hawaii are confined to the islands, they have to make sure they have enough supplies to outlast power outages and other potential emergencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency moved several barges packed with food, water, generators and other supplies into the region ahead of Hurricane Hector, which skirted past the islands more than a week ago, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said.

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Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu, Mark Thiessen and Dan Joling in Anchorage, Alaska, Seth Borenstein in Washington and Annika Wolters in Phoenix contributed to this report.

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