Two hurricanes continued to head toward Hawaii on Wednesday as officials in Hilo announced school closures and warned visitors and residents to prepare for possible heavy rains, strong winds, dangerous swells and flash flooding.
Hurricane Iselle has weakened since Monday, dropping from a Category 4 storm to a Category 1, according to Norman Hui, a meteorologist at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
At last report, Iselle was 720 miles southeast of Hilo and heading toward the Big Island at a speed of 15 mph with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. Hui said the storm is expected to hit the island on Thursday and, if it continues its track, could affect other islands, including Maui, Oahu and Kauai, late Thursday and early Friday.
Officials have issued a hurricane watch, meaning residents should be prepared to evacuate if necessary and take precautions such as securing loose objects that could be tossed about by strong winds, Hui said.
Looming in Iselle's tracks is Julio, which grew from a tropical storm to a hurricane late Tuesday.
Julio was last reported to be 1,650 miles from Hilo and heading toward the Big Island at about 17 mph, Hui said. It is expected to be downgraded back to tropical-storm status by the time it hits the island, he said.
Hawaii hasn't been hit by a tropical storm or hurricane since 1992, according to Hui.