Erick now a tropical storm, passing south of the Big Island

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

UPDATE 5 p.m.: Erick is passing south of Hawaii Island and has weakened into a tropical storm.

With the center of the storm passing about 265 miles south of Hilo, Tropical Storm Erick is packing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and moving west-northwest at 13 mph.

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Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles from the storm’s center.

Significant weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Erick is expected to weaken to a tropical depression by Sunday.

The storm already has already affected weather on the Big Island. As of 1:45 p.m. today, Hilo International Airport received 2.36 inches of rain in the prior 24-hour period. National Weather Service meteorologist Vanessa Almanza said the heavy rainfall can be contributed to Erick and said the forecast predictions of 4 to 8 inches of rain could happen.

The Big Island is currently under a flash flood watch, plus a wind advisory and high-surf warning for east facing shores.

Meanwhile, as of 5 p.m. today, Tropical Storm Flossie strengthened just a bit over the last forecast.

The center of the storm was about 1,350 miles east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just below hurricane strength. According to forecasters, Flossie has the potential to become a hurricane overnight before gradual weakening begins by late Friday.

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

The storm is moving to the west-northwest at 18 mph. The northward turn will take it somewhat to the east of the Big Island should the current track hold, although forecasters say the storm is still too far away to predict.

On the current forecast track, Flossie should enter the Central Pacific basin sometime Friday afternoon.

UPDATE 1 p.m.: A high wind advisory is in effect in advance of the anticipated passing of Hurricane Erick to the south of Hawaii Island and the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Flossie by Monday.

Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno advised Big Islanders to “expect heavy rain and possible flooding, with 5 to 8 inches of accumulation over the next few days.”

He said residents should “take down all canopies and tarps and secure any loose items on your property.”

“Boat and aircraft owners should secure their vessel by 5 p.m. today,” Magno added.

UPDATE 11:52 a.m.: The county Department of Public Works announced that sand will be available at locations throughout the Island from Thursday to enable residents to make their own sandbags ahead of possible flooding due to Hurricanes Erick and Flossie.

Please note that the sand is available while supplies last. The locations can seen on a map at https://arcg.is/1PjSq1.

Empty jute sandbags are available at a variety of hardware and home improvement supply stores across the Island, and can be filled with sand or soil.

UPDATE 11:18 a.m.: Hurricane Erick is now within 300 miles of the Big Island and continues to weaken.

As of 11 a.m. today, the center of the Category 1 cyclone was about 285 miles south-southeast of Hilo, packing maximum sustained winds of 80 mph moving to the west-northwest at 14 mph.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the storm’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.

Significant weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Erick is expected to weaken to a tropical storm later today or tonight.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Flossie, in the words of forecasters, is “moving briskly west-northwest across the Pacific.”

As of 11 a.m. today, the center of the storm was about 1,460 miles east of Hilo. Maximum sustained winds were at 65 mph and the west-northwest movement was clocked at 18 mph.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles from the center.

Gradual weakening is expected during the next two to three days, but the storm’s current forecast track has it either hitting or coming close to the northeastern part of the Big Island early Monday.

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A weakening Hurricane Erick continues on the track predicted by forecasters.

As of 5 a.m., the center of the storm was about 315 miles southeast of Hilo. The storm is now a Category 1 cyclone, packing maximum sustained winds of 85 mph with higher gusts and moving to the west-northwest at 15 mph.

If Erick continues on the forecast track, the storm’s center will pass within about 200 miles south of the Big Island later today and tonight.

Erick is predicted to weaken to tropical storm status later today and tonight and significant weakening is predicted over the next couple of days.

A high surf warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. for east-facing shores of the Big Island as Erick is predicted to bring surf of 15-20 feet.

Forecasters warn large breaking surf, significant shore break, and dangerous currents make entering the water very hazardous and perhaps deadly.

Those along the coastline should expect ocean water occasionally sweeping across portions of beaches, very strong breaking waves, and strong currents. Breaking waves may occasionally impact harbors making navigating the harbor channels dangerous.

In addition, a flash flood watch will take effect at noon today through Saturday morning for the Big Island.

Forecasters warn that intense rainfall and flash flooding are possible as passes Erick south of the island, especially along the east and southeast facing slopes. Peak rainfall accumulations of 4 to 8 inches with locally higher amounts will be possible. Flood prone areas, such as low spots in roads, may become impassable due to fast flowing water or deep ponding.

County officials have closed Punaluu and Whittington beach parks in Ka‘u and Isaac Hale Beach Park (Pohoiki) in Puna until further notice. All camping permits and pavilion rentals for these parks are cancelled through the weekend.

South Point Road is open only to resident traffic.

The Bayfront parking lot in downtown Hilo has been closed and the county’s Hele On bus Hilo terminus has been moved from Mooheau Bus Terminal to the rear of Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium for the time being.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Flossie has maintained its strength overnight.

As of 5 a.m. today, the center of the storm was about 1,580 miles east of Hilo, moving to the west-northwest at 16 mph. Little change in strength is expected for the next couple of days, and the storm is forecast to begin slowly weakening on Saturday.

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The current forecast track has Flossie either making landfall or coming uncomfortably close to the northern end of Hawaii Island either late Monday or early Tuesday, although forecasters say it’s too early to tell if that will actually occur.

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

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