HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii residents watched, waited and hoped for the best as a powerful storm lost speed but churned on a dangerously close parallel path early Sunday, threatening to batter several islands with wind and rain.
Tourists watch surfers out in choppy waves at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014, as Hurricane Ana passes southwest of Hawaii. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz)
Hurricane Ana has been spinning south of Hawaii and heading west for several days, prompting officials to open emergency shelters, suspend flights and urge residents to be ready. But the precautions have come against the backdrop of a threat that hasn't materialized.
As Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell told people on the island of Oahu not to let their guard down, tourists and surfers at Waikiki Beach jumped into the ocean to take advantage of big waves generated as Ana passed.
"Every time we have a hurricane we know it's going to be good," Emile Meder, 23, said.
West of Oahu, on the smaller island of Kauai, where many remember the devastation of Hurricane Iniki, which killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes, the threat was considered more serious.
"Those of us that were here during that time remember, and so we are very cautious," Mary Daubert, a county spokeswoman, said Saturday. "Until she's passed us, we all have to remain vigilant."
The hurricane packed sustained winds of 80 mph. But it has lost some momentum, moving along a northwestern track at just 6 mph, compared with 14 mph earlier.
Three emergency shelters were opened on Kauai as the National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for the island and said the eye was coming closer that first predicted.
The center of Hurricane Ana was about 120 miles south of Kauai and 125 miles southwest of Honolulu early Sunday, the National Weather Service said.
Senior forecaster Tom Birchard said island beaches have been buffeted by 10- to- 15-foot surf but heavy rains have largely held off. A tropical storm watch remained in effect on Oahu but has been lifted for Maui, Lanai and the Big Island.
Meanwhile, the weather service issued a hurricane watch for parts of the remote northwestern Hawaiian islands, saying hurricane conditions are possible sometime late Monday around the island of Nihoa in a largely uninhabited marine sanctuary.
Since the tempest grew to hurricane force Friday, it has moved generally parallel to Hawaii's islands, with the center remaining more than 100 miles from land.
The result has been high surf, occasional heavy rains and strong winds, but no reports of significant damage.
The American Red Cross has closed evacuation shelters on the Big Island, but it has opened shelters on Oahu.
Island Air suspended its Maui and Lanai flights Saturday afternoon and all flights Sunday, but airports remained open.
McAvoy reported from Kailua-Kona. Associated Press writer Jennifer Kelleher and P. Solomon Banda contributed to this report from Honolulu.