Norman turns to west-northwest, county closes east-side beach parks

Hawaii County has closed all beach parks on the north and east side of the island, from South Point to Upolu Point, starting Thursday, as Hurricane Norman continues to move toward the Big Island.

Mayor Harry Kim’s office said in a written statement that all permits and reservations for these parks have been cancelled, as well.

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A high surf warning was issued today for east-facing shores of all major Hawaiian Islands and will remain in effect until 6 a.m. Friday.

Boat were advised to take measures to secure their vessels until the danger passes, and oceanfront residents are urged to be on alert for high and dangerous surf conditions.

As of 5 p.m., the center of Norman was 385 miles east of Hilo, packing maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and taking the anticipated turn to the west-northwest, with forward speed of 9 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.

Vanessa Almanza, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Honolulu, said surf at Richardson Ocean Park in Keaukaha was 6 to 12 feet today. Surf at Honolii Beach Park, a popular surf spot on the northern outskirts of Hilo was higher, 10 to 12 feet.

“Surf of 12 to 18 feet is anticipated tonight,” Almanza said. She added that surf should decrease a bit on Thursday to 10 to 15 feet, still warning-level surf.

Norman is expected to pass to the east of the Big Island sometime Thursday, according to the weather service.

Almanza said warm, breezy northwesterly winds experienced this afternoon in East Hawaii is a product of Norman’s approach. Almanza said those winds are expected to continue “just through tonight.”

“You can expect showery, low clouds over the Big Island tonight,” she said. “As Norman passes northeast of the Big Island over the weekend, you’ll see light winds and muggier conditions.”

Norman is expected to weaken somewhat over the next 48 hours, but is expected to remain a hurricane as it passes by the island. Almanza said, however, it should be far enough away that chances of tropical storm-force winds are only “5 to 10 percent.”

She said Norman may also bring increased rain to the island, but “we’re not anticipating the floods.”

According to Almanza, East Hawaii may get an inch or two of rain over the weekend with “perhaps some localized heavier stuff.”

“We’re not anticipating it to be as widespread as it was with Lane,” she said.

Forecasters are also keeping tabs on Hurricane Olivia in the Eastern Pacific, which has weakened to a Category 2 storm.

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As of 5 p.m. today, Olivia was 1,990 miles east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

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

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