Hurricane Lane now at Category 4 as it heads toward Hawaii

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, Ramen noodles, toilet paper and other supplies as they faced the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and high surf as a hurricane churned toward the state.

The National Weather Service said today Hurricane Lane had weakened to a Category 4 hurricane, but those hurricanes with winds of more than 130 mph or above can still cause catastrophic damage.

More weakening was predicted, but the weather service said that "Lane is forecast to remain a dangerous hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands."

The hurricane was about 465 miles southeast of Honolulu before dawn today, and the National Weather Service extended a hurricane warning for Hawaii's Big Island to include the island of Maui.

Meteorologist Melissa Dye shortly before 5:30 a.m. said the hurricane was 320 miles southeast of Hilo and moving north-northwest at about 9 mph.

"We are starting to see some of the rain show up on the Big Island radar," she said. Offshore buoys also had detected wave action associated with the storm.

The weather service in a special statement said tropical-storm-force winds could begin as early as this afternoon or evening on the Big Island.

A hurricane watch remained in effect for Oahu and other smaller islands, meaning tropical storm-force winds, excessive rain and large swells could arrive starting later today.

There's uncertainty to Lane's path, said meteorologist Gavin Shigesato.

"It is much too early to confidently determine which, if any, of the main Hawaiian islands will be directly impacted by Lane," the NWS said.

But the hurricane center said the storm will move very close to or over the islands from Thursday through Saturday. Even if the center of Lane doesn't make landfall, the islands could be walloped with rain and wind.

Public schools on the Big Island and in Maui County are closed today until further notice.

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