HONOLULU — Heavy rain and wind gusts battered Maui on Sunday as Hurricane Douglas swirled off the coast of Hawaii and officials urged residents to take shelter.
Forecasters said the Category 1 hurricane would pass close to Oahu and potentially even make a direct hit on the island, which is home to the state's biggest city of Honolulu.
“We remain uncomfortably close to a dangerous hurricane here in the state of Hawaii,” Robert Ballard, the science and operations officer at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said during a teleconference.
The center of Hurricane Douglas, which Ballard called a “pretty nasty hurricane,” appears to have passed within 45 miles to the north of Hana, Maui.
At mid-afternoon, the storm was 100 miles east of Honolulu.
Maui was projected to have the brunt of the storm before Douglas moved on to Honolulu in the afternoon. Kauai would see the worst of the storm in the evening, possibly after dark.
Ballard said the storm was tracking west-northwest over the island chain and any variation of the path closer could bring much worse weather. A direct hit on Oahu still remains a possibility, he said.
“It’s probably not the most likely solution right now, but when you’re forecasting a hurricane to go 40 miles or so north of Oahu, any little jog to the left would bring much worse conditions to the main Hawaiian Islands. So that’s a big concern,” he said.
Forecasters are warning powerful winds, rain and storm surge could inflict damage. Douglas had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph in the afternoon.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell urged residents to take the threat seriously, saying Oahu has repeatedly gotten lucky in recent years as hurricanes bearing down on the island have ultimately fizzled out or veered away. But not this time, he said.
“We’re going to be seeing strong winds and storm surge on parts of the island where roads are very close to the water, where homes are very close to the water. It could be a life threatening event," he said. “We don’t want to see anyone get hurt or worse.”