Hurricane Olivia approaches Hawaii with heavy wind, rain

Hurricane Olivia is seen Friday via satellite in the Pacific moving toward Hawaii. (NASA)

By AUDREY McAVOYAssociated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Hurricane Olivia will likely approach Hawaii as either a high-end tropical storm or a low-end hurricane in coming days, weather forecasters said Monday.

"The difference between the two is very slight, so we really need to prepare as if it's a hurricane," said Maureen Ballard, a meteorologist at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

Olivia was 435 miles (700 kilometers) east of Hilo and moving 9 mph (15 kph) at 11 a.m. local time. It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph).

Forecasters say Olivia may drop 10 to 15 inches (25 to 38 centimeters) of rain on the Big Island and Maui County, though some areas could get 20 inches (50 centimeters.)

Wil Okabe, Hawaii County managing director, said work crews were being sent to neighborhoods and parts of highways that flooded and suffered landslides during Hurricane Lane last month.

"By having people around to monitor the situation, to look for the signs, we can respond much quicker," Okabe said. The county is also preparing to open shelters.

Lane dumped more than 52 inches of rain on the Big Island, marking the nation's second-highest rainfall total for a tropical cyclone since 1950. Nearly 40 people had to be rescued from floodwaters, while about 200 people reported damage to their homes on the Big Island because of Lane.

Hurricane Harvey, which deposited more than 60 inches of rain in Texas last year, is the nation's wettest tropical cyclone on record

The ground has dried since Lane so there isn't concern about it being already saturated before the Olivia arrives, Okabe said.

"We don't need any more hurricanes. Let's hope it just passes us, but that's unlikely," he said.

Oahu and Kauai are forecast to receive 3 to 6 inches (7 to 15 centimeters), though precipitation could be as much as 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters) in some areas.

The forecast shows the center of the hurricane passing through a channel between the Big Island and Maui. Ballard stressed, however, that there is uncertainty about the storm's exact path. She noted it could veer slightly to the north or south.

Ballard urged people in Hawaii to pay attention to the storm.

"We hope everyone still has all of their supplies from last time and that they maintain an awareness of what's going on," she said.

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