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Maui braces for impact as Hurricane Douglas nears Hawaii

Hawaii prepared for the onslaught of Hurricane Douglas on Sunday, with predictions of high winds, rain and storm surge.

Officials warn residents not be lulled into complacency as hurricane downgraded to Category 1

A family boards up the windows of their home in preparation for Hurricane Douglas in Honolulu on Sunday. (Ronen Zilberman/AFP/Getty Images)

Hawaii prepared for the onslaught of Hurricane Douglas on Sunday, with predictions of high winds, rain and storm surge.

"It's definitely going to be a triple threat," said U.S. National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist Vanessa Almanza.

Rainfall from the storm can be anywhere from 13 to 38 centimetres. It's "probably not a good day to go to the beach," Almanza said.

Douglas weakened Saturday to a Category 1 hurricane as it approached Hawaii, but officials warned people should not be lulled into complacency. The NWS said Douglas should remain a hurricane as it moves through the islands Sunday.

"Douglas is continuing a gradual, slow, weakening trend, which in itself is good news. But the bad news is that this hurricane is going to come very close to the islands even as it's weakening," said Robert Ballard, the science and operations officer at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. "And we do expect significant impacts as it makes its point of closest approach or possible landfall as it comes through."

Carlos Mozo fills sandbags in preparation for flooding from the hurricane in Hau'ula, on the windward side of Oahu. (Ronen Zilberman/AFP/Getty Images)

Oahu, home to the state's largest city, Honolulu, was placed under a hurricane warning with the storm beginning to impact the island as early as late morning. Kauai and Maui were also placed under warning status Sunday, while a hurricane watch was cancelled for the Big Island.

Officials on Maui planned to sound hurricane warning sirens Sunday morning alerting residents to shelter in place or take refuge at one of seven shelters set up around the island. The hurricane was packing maximum sustained winds of 150 km/h Sunday.

The NWS said parts of Maui were to feel the first impacts of Hurricane Douglas on Sunday morning, followed by Oahu about midday and the islands of Kauai and Niihau in the evening.

'Significant impact' on each island expected

Maui officials said in a release that they will assess damage from the storm Monday.

"We know that it is weakening as it approaches, but it still will have significant impact on each island," Hawaii Gov. David Ige said at a Saturday news conference.

State health department officials contacted each of the 625 people who were currently in isolation or quarantine as of Friday because they are either COVID-19 positive or have been in contact with someone who is. Every one of those indicated they would shelter in place and not seek refuge at a hurricane shelter.

"That gives a sigh of relief," said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Hawaii has some of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the nation, but numbers have been rising in recent weeks. Every day since Thursday, Hawaii has reported record highs of newly confirmed cases, including 73 on Saturday.

Caldwell said at the same news conference that 13 shelters were to open at 9 a.m. local time Sunday around Oahu, well ahead of the hurricane impacting the island, anywhere from midday into the evening. People will have to wear face coverings to be admitted, and will have to wear them unless they are eating, drinking or sleeping.

The storm was about 300 kilometres east of Honolulu Sunday, moving west-northwest at 26 km/h.

A satellite image shows Hurricane Douglas in the Pacific Ocean on course for Hawaii. (NOAA/Handout/Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Hawaii because of the hurricane, directing federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled all Sunday flights between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland and also between the other islands.

Ige said residents should already have their 14-day emergency supply kit in place, but because of COVID-19, he encouraged people to add masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.

Honolulu resident Scott Silva had supplies in hand.

"Just make sure I had enough food, you know, enough extra water, which I usually do anyway, so that's about it," he said. "Not expecting too much trouble from this one."

Hanna leaves path of destruction in Texas

Separately in Texas, storm Hanna left a trail of destruction on the state's coast on Sunday, overturning tractor-trailers, downing power lines and toppling part of the U.S.-Mexico border wall as the storm threatened the area with torrential rains.

Eventually weakening to a tropical depression, Hanna came ashore on Padre Island on Saturday afternoon as a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity and later made a second landfall in Kenedy County, Texas. It swept through a part of the state hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

A girl covers her face from strong winds as her family members watch high swells from former-hurricane Hanna from a jetty in Galveston, Texas on Saturday. (Adrees Latif/Reuters)

Hanna was the first hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.

Powerful winds from Hanna knocked over at least three 18-wheeler trucks and a recreational vehicle, with tow trucks trying to right the toppled vehicles on Sunday, shutting down a 3.2 kilometre stretch of U.S. Route 77 in Sarita, Texas, near the Mexican border.

In Port Mansfield, winds flattened sugarcane fields and levelled trees. Deer roamed streets, stopping to nibble downed branches in the yards of homes, some that lost their roofs.

A video circulating on Twitter showed winds toppling a newly constructed portion of the border wall built between the United States and Mexico.

At one point, more than 283,000 homes and businesses were without electricity. But that figure fell to 203,000 by Sunday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us.

The storm was not expected to affect offshore oil and gas production. Energy companies have not evacuated workers or shut down production from their Gulf of Mexico platforms because of Hanna.

Some residents took advantage of the wild weather, with Alejandero Carcano, 16, and Jesse Garewal, 18, both of Galveston, surfing the high swells whipped up by Hanna.

"Showers with heavy rain were developing from Victoria extending SE into the Gulf of Mexico, moving NW. Expect this trend to continue through mid morning," the NWS Corpus Christi office said on Twitter.

Hanna still posed a threat, the hurricane centre said, noting it could dump upward of 45 centimetres of rain in the area through Monday.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement on Sunday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared the storm a federal emergency and would help fund evacuation and shelter efforts.

"I continue to urge Texans to heed the guidance from their local leaders and follow best practices to keep themselves and their loved ones safe as severe weather continues to move through our communities," he said.

The Texas area struck by Hanna has struggled to contain outbreaks of COVID-19 in recent weeks. Cases along the state's coast have soared into the tens of thousands.

More than 440 people in the Corpus Christi area were hospitalized with the illness, according to the state health department.

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