Hawaii prepares for Tropical Storm Felicia

/ Source: The Associated Press

Hawaii residents kept a watchful eye on Felicia on Monday as the weakening tropical storm closed in on the islands.

A tropical storm watch for the Big Island was canceled Monday but remained in effect for Oahu and Maui County.

After being downgraded from a hurricane, Felicia had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph with higher gusts, according to Air Force reconnaissance aircraft. The storm was expected to weaken to a tropical depression with maximum sustained winds of 38 mph by Monday night, forecasters said.

Small crafts were advised to remain in port.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu said at 11 a.m. HST that the storm's center was about 270 miles east-northeast of Hilo and about 440 miles east of Honolulu.

As the storm was moving west at about 12 mph, the center was expected to reach the Hawaiian Islands on Tuesday, by which time it was expected to have weakened to a tropical depression.

"In either case, the strongest winds are expected to be north of the circulation center and occur mostly over waters north of the islands," the center said.

Large waves generated by the storm will continue to build across the state through Monday night.

The approaching storm didn't seem to be affecting Hawaii's No. 1 industry, tourism.

"There has not been an appreciable increase in cancellations," state tourism liaison Marsha Wienert said.

Two public charter schools on the Big Island took it upon themselves not to open. All other public schools in the state remained open, although the situation would be reevaluated later Monday, a state Department of Education spokeswoman said.

No matter how strong Felicia's winds may be when it reaches Hawaii, locally heavy rain was still expected and flash flooding remained a possibility, forecasters said.

Although rainfall is welcome in the islands, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply prefers steady rains over several days to help to recharge aquifers.

"In general, we tend not to like the really heavy, dumping torrential rains because a good majority will be turned into runoff. So we tend to like the lighter, steadier rainfall," board spokeswoman Moani Wright-Van Alst said.

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