Hector expected to pass south of Big Island this afternoon

Hurricane Hector continues to move closer and is forecast to pass about 150 miles south of South Point sometime this afternoon.

As of 8 a.m., the former Category 4 storm was 225 miles south-southeast of Hilo, traveling west at 16 miles per hour. Hector, now a strong Catetory 3 hurricane, still packs a punch. Maximum sustained winds are 120 mph with higher gusts.

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Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.

A high surf warning is in effect for east-facing shores of the Big Island until at least 6 p.m. today. The National Weather Service said swells, exacerbated by the extreme high tides known as “king tides,” could be “large and dangerous.”

The U.S. Coast Guard closed the Big Island’s two major harbors Tuesday, the Port of Hilo and Port of Kawaihae, to inbound traffic.

“We will not be complacent as storm tracks may shift and we can expect some severe winds,” said Capt. Michael Long, captain of the Port of Honolulu. “The residents of the main Hawaiian Islands are dependent on the ports. I am committed to ensuring the safety of commerce and seeing the ports return to our seasonal readiness status as soon as is practical to do so.”

While Civil Defense officials advised residents to make sure they have a well-stocked emergency kit on hand, it appeared Hilo shoppers were unconcerned by the approaching hurricane.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency said the Disaster Recovery Center at the Pahoa Community Center is closed today, and they’ll evaluate conditions Thursday morning to determine if it is safe to reopen.

The County Clerk also is closing absentee walk-in voting sites at the Pahoa Community Center and the Pahala Community Center today because of the possible storm threat and, if conditions warrant, on Thursday, as well.

All other absentee walk-in voting sites are open, subject to weather conditions.

Thursday is the final day of absentee walk-in voting, and primary election day is Saturday.

Whittington, Punaluu and Milolii beach parks are temporarily closed. All pavilion and camping permits through Friday are canceled.

All roads are open, except for South Point Road south of the Kamaoa Road intersection,

In addition, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed its Kahuku Unit in Ka‘u, about an hour south of the main park entrance. The closure could continue Thursday should conditions warrant, park officials said.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife also closed the Waimanu Valley campground and Ainapo cabin through today. All existing camping reservations will be canceled and refunded

Forecasters in Hawaii also are keeping an eye on two tropical cyclones that are still far away in the Eastern Pacific off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.

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Hurricane John has weakened into a Category 1 storm and is forecast to remain near the Baja coast, while Tropical Storm Kristy had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph, and had taken a turn to the west-northwest.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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