Hurricane Erick weakens to Category 2 storm, continues approach

  • This map from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center shows Hurricane Erick's 5-day forecast track as of 5 p.m. today.
  • This map from the National Hurricane Center shows Tropical Storm Flossie's 5-day forecast track as of 5 p.m. today.

UPDATE 5 p.m.:

As Hurricane Erick continues its approach toward Hawaii, the storm is weakening and is now a Category 2 cyclone.

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In addition, a high surf warning has been posted for east-facing shores of Hawaii Island, as a swell generated by Erick will bring increasing surf overnight. Forecasters say residents should expect surf to rise overnight exceeding advisory levels by daybreak, with warning level surf expected through the day.

The high surf warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday.

As of 5 p.m., the center of Erick was about 480 miles southeast of Hilo. The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph with higher gusts and is forecast to gradually weaken over the next 48 hours.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Flossie continued to weaken in the Eastern Pacific, but is still expected to restrengthen into a hurricane.

As of 5 p.m. today, the center of Flossie was about 1,775 miles east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph with higher gusts. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles from the center.

Little change in strength is forecast during the next 36 hours, followed by some strengthening later this week.

The storm was moving to the west at 16 mph.

UPDATE 2:08 p.m.:

Hawaii County Civil Defense said Whittington and Punaluu Beach Parks in the Ka‘u District were closed as of noon today as Hurricane Erick continues to move westward.

“All camping permits and pavilion rentals for this weekend are cancelled,” Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said.

In addition, South Point Road will be closed at 3 p.m. today.

“Only residents of South Point Road will have access until further notice,” Magno said.

Magno said the Hilo Bayfront parking lot will be closed Thursday morning until further notice and Hele On buses will pick up passengers behind Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium on Manono Street in Hilo. He said parking for bus users will be between the Butler Building and Wong Stadium.

Magno also warned residents to “secure canopy tents and loose items on your property by Thursday” in anticipation of increased winds due to Erick.

UPDATE 11:30 a.m.

Hurricane Erick continues to weaken and Flossie has been downgraded to a tropical storm, at least temporarily.

At 11 a.m. today, the center of Erick was about 535 miles southeast of Hilo. The storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, which makes it still a Category 3 storm, and is moving to the west-northwest at 14 mph.

Erick is forecast to slowly weaken during the next 48 hours.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Pacific, Tropical Storm Flossie continues to churn at just below hurricane strength.

At 11 a.m. today, the center of Flossie was 1,875 miles east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, moving west at 16 mph.

Some additional weakening is forecast later

today and tonight, but re-strengthening is expected by the end of the week, and Flossie is forecast to become a hurricane again in a couple of days.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles from the center.

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Hurricanes Erick and Flossie are both still on a track to affect weather on Hawaii Island although both are weakening this morning, and the Big Island is scheduled to go on a flash flood watch starting tomorrow.

At 5 a.m. today, Erick had weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 3 cyclone, still packing a punch with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph and weakening expected to continue over the next 48 hours.

The center of the storm was 615 miles southeast of Hilo, moving west at 13 mph with a track taking it south of the Big Island.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the storm’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.

Erick is expected to further weaken and be a tropical storm when it passes the Big Island, probably early Friday morning. Still, it is expected to have an impact on Hawaii Island weather, according to National Weather Service forecaster Pete Donaldson, who said moisture associated with the storm “will spread over the Hawaiian Islands by Thursday afternoon and produce heavy rainfall.”

Donaldson said rainfall “is expected to be heaviest over the east and southeast slopes of the Big Island.”

He added that swells generated by Erick are due to arrive “over the next couple of days, “potentially producing dangerous surf conditions, mainly along east facing shores.”

A flash flood watch for the Big Island is expected to be posted from Thursday afternoon until Saturday morning.

“Flood prone areas, such as low spots in roads, may become impassable due to fast flowing water or deep ponding. The main

flooding impacts are expected to occur from Hilo to Naalehu, with lower flooding potential elsewhere on the Big Island,” the text of the watch states.

Meanwhile, the center of Hurricane Flossie was about 1,970 miles east-southeast of Hilo as of 5 a.m. today.

The Category 1 cyclone’s intensity has decreased, with maximum sustained winds at 75 mph. The storm is expected to weaken to a tropical storm sometime today, although that weakening is forecast to be temporary, with Flossie again strengthening to hurricane status on Thursday.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.

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The storm is moving west-northwest at about 15 mph and that track is expected to hold for several days. Flossie is expected to be a tropical storm again when its track approaches the Big Island early next week.

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

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