Hurricane Lane barreled toward the Hawaiian islands Wednesday as a powerful Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The Big Island and the islands of Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe were all under a hurricane warning, meaning hurricane conditions are expected beginning Thursday morning.
The islands of Kauai and Niihau were under a hurricane watch, with hurricane conditions possible beginning Thursday night.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles.
Excessive rainfall associated with Lane is expected to affect portions of the Hawaiian Islands from late Wednesday into the weekend, the National Hurricane Center said, which could lead to major flash flooding and landslides.
CBS New York's chief meteorologist Lonnie Quinn said Lane has the potential to be a "huge rainmaker." With Hawaii's mountainous terrain, the storm could potentially cause mudslides, Quinn said.
"This storm is going to be more of a rainmaker, not as much of a windmaker," Quinn told "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor. Parts of the Big Island could get up to 2 feet of rain, he added.
Hawaii residents rushed to stores to stock up on bottled water, Ramen, toilet paper and other supplies as they face the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and high surf. About 20 shelters were set up in Oahu and another seven in Maui County, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV reports.
National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Dye said rain associated with the hurricane has started to show up on radar off the Big Island of Hawaii and offshore buoys were detecting higher than normal waves.
The weather service said tropical-storm-force winds could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon or evening on the Big Island.
Lane had previously crossed the Category 5 line. "It's one of only two recorded Category 5 hurricanes to pass within 350 miles of the Big Island's South Point," KGMB reported. "The last: Hurricane John in 1994."
NASA and NOAA shared an view of the hurricane from space showing the huge swirling storm clouds closing in on Hawaii. The image, taken by the GOES-15 satellite Wednesday, reveals the well-developed eye of the storm positioned about 300 miles south of the Big Island.
Public schools on the Big Island and in Maui County were closed Wednesday until further notice.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige is allowing non-essential state employees on the Big Island and Maui to go on administrative leave from Wednesday to Friday as Hurricane Lane approaches. Employees on Hawaii and Maui islands who work in disaster response as well as in hospitals and prisons are required to report to their jobs, the governor said.
Longtime Hawaii residents recalled a devastating 1992 hurricane as they prepared for Hurricane Lane.
Kauai resident Mike Miranda was 12 when Hurricane Iniki struck the island 26 years ago. "A lot of people are comparing the similarities between Iniki and Lane," he said.
Iniki's turn into the islands was sudden, he recalled.
"I remember how very little rain fell. But I remember the wind being the strongest force of nature I've ever witnessed and probably the scariest sounds I've ever heard in my life," he said. Utility poles were down all over the island, and his 7th-grade classes were held in Army tents for several months.
Miranda said his family is used to preparing for hurricane season.
"A lot of people who moved here and never experienced a hurricane. They're the ones rushing to the store," he said.