Now at Category 5, Hurricane Lane bears down on Hawaii

Major Hurricane Lane, a Category 4 storm, is heading toward Hawaii, forecasters warn

Hurricane Lane is now a category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds at 160 miles per hour and moving west-northwest at 9 miles per hour.

The hurricane was about 465 miles (804 kilometers) southeast of Honolulu before dawn Wednesday and The National Weather Service extended a hurricane warning for Hawaii's Big Island to include the island of Maui.

Lane's maximum sustained winds are almost 160 mph, the National Weather Service said, which will slowly weaken over the next 48 hours. Just 4 percent of hurricanes and typhoons are annular, and they are known for their staying power, weakening more slowly under unfavorable conditions compared with conventional storms.

The most powerful storm on record hitting Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 that made landfall on Kauai island on September 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Senior Honolulu forecaster Tom Birchard says the watch for Hurricane Lane has been issued for the island of Hawaii and Maui County, which includes the island of Maui and other smaller islands.

Oahu and Maui County, meanwhile, are under a hurricane watch.

Satellite view of the eye of Hurricane Lane.

However, forecasters say they are still uncertain whether the eye of the powerful hurricane will have a devastating direct hit on the United States island chain.

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The County of Hawaii's mayor, Harry Kim, declared a state of emergency on the Big Island effective Tuesday morning.

The watch will go into effect from tomrrow (Wednesday) morning through Friday afternoon.

The hurricane, which is forecast to begin pummeling the islands later today (Aug. 22), has already prompted the governor of Hawaii to declare a state of emergency.

The gas lines were long at Costco in Kahului on Tuesday as Hurricane Lane approached the Hawaiian Islands.

The east side of the Big Island has taken the brunt from previous storms and is still reeling after lava from an erupting volcano wiped out entire neighbourhoods.

Officials were urging residents across the islands to prepare. Kauai bore the brunt of Iniki in 1992, and that storm is top of mind for residents preparing to weather Lane in the coming days.

With the storm's impending arrival, Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for Kona Community and Kohala hospitals, said staff has been working to ensure both facilities are ready should people need care.

"One thing is for sure, the coast will continue to feel the impacts of swell, gradually increasing with the approaching storm to a peak around mid-week with strong surf (large waves for some of the well-exposed areas)", Warren said.

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