Torrential rain is lashing Hawaii as Hurricane Lane barrels towards the archipelago, threatening to be the first hurricane to make landfall there since 1992.
The storm has been downgraded to a Category 3, but still has maximum sustained winds of 200km/h at its centre.
Weather alerts are in effect for much of the state and a State of Emrgency has been proclaimed by the Governor, David Ige.
"I've not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I've seen with this storm," he said in the proclamation. "I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact."
The hurricane is forecast to skirt close to the south of the Hawaiian islands and continue to weaken, but authorities there say it is still expected to cause significant destruction.
Already, the southern islands are being lashed with high winds and torrential rains which have touched off flash floods, landslides and raging surf as residents hunker down. One reading site recorded 50 centimetres of rain.
A meteorologist with the US National Weather Service on Hawaii, Melissa Dye, said the hurricane was moving relative slowly at about 11km/h, and has already caused flooding and mudslides on Big Island.
"At this point we are not really focussing on direct landfall, we're just focussing on the fact that the impacts are going to reach well beyond the centre of the storm," she told RNZ.
"The tropical storm force winds extend about 140 miles, or 220km, from the centre of the storm."
At about midday NZT, the hurricane was making its turn past Big Island, and was heading towards Maui and Oahu.
A spokesperson for Hawaii's emergency management agency, Richard Rapoza, told RNZ he had never seen a storm like this approach the archipelago, which was worrying for many residents.
"We get a lot of near misses and so people kind of pooh-pooh it in the early stages but in the past couple of days as people have seen the maps and the projections getting very very close people have got very serious about preparing in terms of putting wood over their windows and also getting the food and supplies they need," he said.
The last destructive hurricane to hit Hawaii was Inki in 1992, which veered sharply into Kaui
The latest developments.
- As of 11am Hawaii time, Lane was located about 200 miles south-southwest of Kailua-Kona and 275 miles south of Honolulu. It was slowly moving north-northwest
- Authorities are warning the hurricane is erratic and its forecast track cannot be relied upon. The National Weather Service said it has the potential to pass dangerously close to islands including Maui, Moloka'i and Oahu tonight and tomorrow. Regardless of the exact track, life threatening impacts are likely over many areas as this strong hurricane makes its closest approach.
- The government asked residents to listen for evacuation orders, which could be likely. If ordered to evacuate, they should do so immediately.