Tropical Storm Erick expected to approach Hawaii as hurricane

Tropical Storm Erick has formed in the Eastern Pacific, and forecasters expect the cyclone to grow into a hurricane as it approaches Hawaii later this week.

The storm, formerly Tropical Depression Six-E, was centered 1,945 miles east-southeast of Hilo at 5 p.m. Saturday, is packing maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, moving west at 17 mph. This general motion is expected to continue for the next few days with a slight decrease in forward speed.

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Tropical storm-force winds extend 25 miles from its center.

According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, gradual strengthening is expected, and Eric is forecast to become a Category 1 hurricane by Monday night with winds of 75 mph. The 5-day forecast track has it passing several hundred miles southeast of the of the Big Island and moving to the northwest.

The hurricane center called environmental conditions “favorable for Erick to intensify over the next three to four days, with the only current inhibiting factor is that the system lacks a well-defined inner core.

“How fast this inner core consolidates will be a key factor in the pace of intensification of Erick in the short term,” forecasters said.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Talmadge Magno said Saturday: “We want people to be prepared 12 months out of the year because of the different hazards and risks that we have on this island. … We’ve got our eye on it. The National Hurricane Center is watching it. And so, as it gets to 140 (degrees longitude West) probably early (this) week, we’ll let people know what’s going on.”

A second low-pressure tropical disturbance off the southwestern coast of Mexico is given a 70% chance by forecasters of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours and a 90 percent chance in the next five days.

“This system has become better organized since (Friday) and conditions appear favorable for further development,” the hurricane center said. “A tropical depression is expected to form early (this) week while the system moves generally westward at 15 to 20 mph.”

The disturbance would be named Tropical Storm Flossie.

Hurricane season is in effect until Nov. 30 and Magno said Big Island residents should prepare themselves for possible impacts of wind and heavy rain if they haven’t done so already.

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“There’s time,” he said. “Make sure you have your personal plan … make sure you know where you’re going to go if your house is not substantial enough to withstand wind or your neighborhood might get impacted. We will put out the shelter plan if it gets to that point.”

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

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