Hurricane Lane's eye seen in dramatic video as storm churns toward Hawaii

County workers clean up flooding debris from Hurricane Lane Wednesday at Carvalho Park in Hilo

County workers clean up flooding debris from Hurricane Lane Wednesday at Carvalho Park in Hilo

The first emergency shelters are preparing to open as Hurricane Lane heads toward Hawaii.

"A lot of people who moved here and never experienced a hurricane, they're the ones rushing to the store", he said.

"Hurricane conditions are expected over some areas of Maui County and Oahu starting Friday and continuing through Friday night.

Among the hard-hit areas was the upscale Reed's Island neighborhood in Hilo, where county firefighters responded Thursday afternoon to a request for help from a family of five that was trapped in a home by rising floodwater, said Fire Battalion Chief Matthias Kusch.

Hawaiis biggest hotels are confident they can keep their guests safe as long as they stay inside, said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association.

As many dealt with flooding and even brush fires, swimmers and surfers ignored warnings from authorities and plunged into powerful waves at Oahu's famed Waikiki Beach, which was closed.

The U.S. Navy is moving its ships and submarines out of Hawaii as Hurricane Lane bears down on the state. The agency has hundreds of thousands of meals and liters of water on the islands, and is doing more to coordinate with the private sector and other agencies, including the Department of Defense, which has a large presence in the state.

"It's a strong and risky storm- make sure to listen to your community's emergency managers and stay prepared and safe", said Lisa Bucci, a scientist on NOAA's Hurricane Hunter.

FEMA administrator Brock Long said the supplies arrived in Hawaii after a volcano began oozing lava into neighbourhoods in May and in preparation for a recent hurricane that bypassed the islands.

As the hurricane draws closer to Hawaii, peak winds have been recorded at 125 miles per hour.

With maximum sustained winds slowing to 155 miles per hour, Lane was downgraded from a Category 5 storm to the Category 4 level on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale as it surged westerly across the Pacific Ocean.

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As Hurricane Lane wreaked havoc in East Hawaii throughout the day Thursday, West Hawaii residents enjoyed light rain, overcast skies, with no major winds.

Hurricane Lane, threatening a direct hit as Hawaii's worst storm in a quarter century, churned towards the main island of Oahu on Thursday as schools, government offices and business closed while residents stocked up on supplies and boarded up homes.

Lining the walls of the room were TV screens that tracked the path of Hurricane Lane, a whiteboard listed closures and several westside coastline maps showing tsunami inundation.

These images were taken by NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold early on Wednesday morning.

It is expected to bring "life threatening conditions" across the state through to Saturday, with heavy flooding rains, damaging winds, storm surge and unsafe surf.

The storm was expected to continue drifting slowly northward and weaken further before trade winds overtake its forward motion and push it sharply off to the west and away from land on Saturday, Weather Service forecaster Leigh Anne Eaton told a news conference in Honolulu.

More than a foot of rain has already fallen on part of the Big Island, the NWS said on Thursday morning.

Even though Hurricane Lane was lowered to a Category 3 from a Category 4 hurricane on August 23, the Pacific hurricane still threatens Hawaii with torrential downpours and flash floods.

The last major storm to hit the islands is Iniki back in 1992.

He added that the storm's weakening was expected to be slow at first but that "Lane will remain a very powerful and very risky hurricane as it approaches the Hawaiian Islands".

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