SOUTH POINT, Hawaii — Flossie was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm hours after sideswiping Hawaii’s Big Island, turning its seas into roiling giant surf and soaking residents.
Flossie had delivered 30 minutes of steady rain to the small town of Naalehu on Tuesday night, and there was light rain Wednesday morning at Hilo International Airport, but there was little significant wind.
The storm spent most of its wrath at sea, but residents stocked up on supplies and stayed home Tuesday in anticipation of possible flooding and wind damage from the first hurricane to come so close to the islands in 15 years. Schools and businesses across the Big Island were to remain closed Wednesday.
Other Hawaiian islands, including the main island of Oahu, enjoyed tropical breezes and mostly sunny skies, with little impact on tourism or commerce.
Flossie lost its hurricane status as its maximum winds dropped below 74 mph. By 8 a.m. ET, the storm’s winds slowed to 60 mph and were expected to continue weakening over the next 24 hours. The storm was about 160 miles southwest of South Point, on the south tip of the Big Island, moving west at about 10 mph.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu canceled a hurricane watch for the Big Island, although a tropical storm warning remained in effect Wednesday morning, meaning the island could experience winds of more than 39 mph.
A flash flood watch for the Big Island was also canceled as the threat of up to 10 inches of rain dissipated. But the Kau region could see 6 to 8 inches of rain, forecasters said.
Flossie was still a hurricane as it buffeted the Big Island on Tuesday, sweeping about 95 miles south of South Point.
Gov. Linda Lingle signed an emergency disaster declaration and canceled a trip to the island before the storm hit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched 20 transportation, aviation, public works and health experts to the island as a precaution. Emergency shelters were opened but attracted only displaced campers and a few stray tourists.
Cruise ship operator NCL America altered itineraries for its two giant ships that ply the islands.
Schools and many businesses closed and shelters opened in anticipation of Flossie.
The storm comes on the heels of a 5.4-magnitude earthquake centered 25 miles south of Hilo. The quake Monday night caused a small landslide, but there were no reports of injuries or structural damage, said Tom Brown, a spokesman for Hawaii County Civil Defense.
More than two dozen aftershocks followed, the largest measuring magnitude 3.2, said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist in charge at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
While Flossie stirred up the Pacific, a tropical storm watch was issued Tuesday night for the Texas coast as a tropical depression formed in the Gulf of Mexico. And in the open Atlantic, Tropical Storm Dean formed east of the Lesser Antilles.
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