Tropical Storm Ana churns toward Hawaii, could become hurricane

Tropical Storm Ana churned across the central Pacific and remained on track to hit Hawaii by Friday, forecasters said, in what could be the island`s first hurricane in more than two decades.

Hawaii: Tropical Storm Ana churned across the central Pacific and remained on track to hit Hawaii by Friday, forecasters said, in what could be the island`s first hurricane in more than two decades.

Ana was swirling about 340 miles (545 km) south-southeast of the Big Island late on Thursday local time, packing maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (100 kph), according to the US National Weather Service.

Tropical storms get classified as hurricanes when maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph (119 kph). While Ana had not reached those levels, the service said it could still strengthen into a hurricane on Friday before weakening over the weekend.

The last hurricane to hit Hawaii was the Category 4 Iniki in September 1992. It lashed the island of Kauai with winds of more than 140 miles per hour (225 kph), killing six people and causing around USD 2.4 billion of damage.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for Hawaii County, with storm conditions expected to arrive by Friday night, the service said. Forecasters predicted that as much as 12 inches of rain could fall on the Big Island, which could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides. 

Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency proclamation for the state on Wednesday, and classes at the University of Hawaii West Hawai`i Campus have been cancelled, according to the state`s Emergency Management Agency.

There were no current advisories for any of the other islands, including Oahu, home to the capital Honolulu, or Maui, though that could change depending on environmental factors, forecasters said.

In August, Tropical Storm Iselle pummelled the Hawaiian Islands with high winds and heavy rain, forcing hundreds of people to seek shelter and knocking out power to more than 20,000 residents.

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