The full impact of Hurricane Iselle, which is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm by the time it reaches the Big Island, is expected to hit Maui on Thursday, probably later in the day, a National Weather Service meteorologist said Monday.
"It will be packing a punch when it gets here," said meteorologist Matthew Foster, saying high surf is the best bet, with other factors still difficult to predict.
The cone of the track was pointing toward Maui on Monday afternoon, he said, continuing that just because a "skinny line" is zeroing in on Maui doesn't mean the path won't change. In fact, the path of the storm likely will change, he said.
At 6 p.m. Monday, the National Hurricane Center put Iselle, a Category 4 hurricane packing maximum sustained winds of 135 mph, about 1,150 miles east of Hilo. It was moving west at 8 mph. Hurricane force winds extended 35 miles out from the storm center.
Iselle is expected to turn toward the west-northwest at a faster speed today and Wednesday. Weakening is expected in the next 48 hours, but Iselle is predicted to remain a hurricane through Wednesday, the hurricane center said.
The "sheared" atmosphere and the cooler water between Iselle's current position and Hawaii will weaken the system, said Foster. The upper-level high wind shear helps rip the system apart, as does the cooler waters; warmer waters provide more energy to systems, he said.
Foster advised Hawaii residents to take precautions, which they appear to be doing.
"The line for gas at Costco is nuts. . . . The guy in front of me has plywood, multiple cases of water and a new generator . . . making me nervous!" said Tori Takayesu Hamilton of Makawao on Monday.
Second Friday activities in Lahaina have been canceled. This includes Campbell Park, the Summer Block Party from Papalaua Street to Lahainaluna Road and the 2015 Lahaina poster contest reception at the Old Jail gallery in the Old Lahaina Courthouse, according to the LahainaTown Action Committee.
The poster reception has been rescheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 15; the next Lahaina Second Friday will be Sept. 12.
Haleakala National Park officials were preparing for the possible storm, telling visitors who want to camp in the Haleakala Crater or to use the cabins to be out by Thursday afternoon. Prospective visitors to the park should check the park website at www.nps.gov/hale/index.htm for weather advisories.
"We will monitor the situation to determine when/if to close the park completely," said Polly Angelakis, chief of interpretation and education at Haleakala National Park.
Maui Civil Defense Agency and Mayor Alan Arakawa reminded residents to prepare now, before the storm hits.
"Now is the time to get ready," said Arakawa. "Anyone who is waiting until the storm hits to prepare will find themselves running around at the last minute and standing in line at the gas stations and grocery stores. So prepare now and avoid being on the road when you should be safe at home."
Emergency Management Officer Anna Foust said that the county is expecting "a midlevel tropical storm with sustained winds of 50 mph." That level of storm still has the potential to cause flash flooding and high surf.
"These conditions can pose a threat to life and property, and we should take them seriously," she said.
Maui Civil Defense Agency offered these preparation tips before a storm:
* Fuel family vehicles.
* Store and secure outdoor objects and loose, lightweight objects, such as lawn furniture and garbage cans that may become airborne.
* Prepare to cover all window and door openings with boards, shutters or other shielding materials.
* Double-check emergency kits and make sure there are adequate water, nonperishable food and medications on hand.
Foust recommended that residents subscribe to alerts and notifications directly from Civil Defense on the county website www.mauicounty.gov/civilde fense.
Maui Civil Defense is coordinating with county, state, federal and nongovernment partners, according to a county news release. The county will announce closures and shelter openings as needed.
Iselle isn't the only system in the east Pacific Ocean being tracked by the hurricane center. Tropical Storm Julio, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, is expected to grow to a hurricane Wednesday, the hurricane center said. The system was more than 2,000 miles away from Hilo at 6 p.m. Monday, moving west at 16 mph.
"We were predicting an active year," said Foster of the two storms headed toward Hawaii.
He cited the developing El Nino, characterized by unusually high water surface sea temperatures, as the reason for the expected active storm season and was "not surprised" by the two systems so close together.
Julio is following a similar path as Iselle, though "one has no bearing on the other," Foster said. The track of Julio was "a bit more uncertain" at this time, he added.
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* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.