HONOLULU (AP) -- Public schools closed and Hawaiians were warned to stock up on food and water as Hurricane Flossie roared toward the state early Tuesday. As if the storm wasn't enough, an 5.3 magnitude earthquake jolted the Big Island of Hawaii overnight.
The eye of the Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained wind down slightly at 110 mph, was expected to pass less than 100 miles from the islands, lashing the shores with strong wind and up to 15 inches of rain, meteorologists said.
The National Weather Service placed the Big Island under a hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning. A flash flood watch was also issued for the island through Wednesday, with possible flash flooding in areas.
Gov. Linda Lingle signed an emergency disaster proclamation, which activates the National Guard. Island Mayor Harry Kim also declared a state of emergency Monday as a precaution. All 56 public schools, as well as private schools, on the Big Island also were closed for Tuesday.
Just as preparations for the storm were under way, Hawaii got another scare: A magnitude 5.3 earthquake struck about 25 miles south of Hilo. There were no reports of injuries or damage in the Monday night quake, although it did cause a small landslide, according to Tom Brown, a spokesman for Hawaii County Civil Defense.
The Big Island is largely rural, with about 150,000 people, and most live in the west or northeast, not the southern portion expected to be hit hardest by the hurricane. Other islands are expected to get much less of the storm's wind and rain.
At 8 a.m. EDT, Flossie was about 240 miles south-southeast of Hilo and 450 miles southeast of Honolulu, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. The storm was moving west-northwest at about 14 mph.
Hurricane-force wind of at least 74 mph extended outward up to 40 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm force wind of at least 39 mph extend outward up to 150 miles.
Meteorologists cautioned that even a slight change of course in the unpredictable storm could take it closer to land.
"We're not out of it, but this is too close for comfort," said National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the state adjutant general.
Forecasters earlier had said cooler weather would weaken the storm to a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained wind of at least 74 mph, by the time it passes about 90 miles south of the Big Island of Hawaii on Tuesday.
But on Monday forecasters said they now expected little change in strength from Category 3 when it passes the island. Earlier Monday, Flossie had been a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained wind of 140 mph.
The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was 1992, when Iniki ravaged Kauai, killing six people and causing $2.5 billion in damage.
Elsewhere, a tropical depression in the far Eastern Atlantic - the fourth of the season - was 855 miles west-southwest of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands, off the coast of Africa, and about 1,660 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. It had maximum sustained wind at 35 mph and was moving at 21 mph.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. In May, forecasters said the Hawaiian Islands and the rest of the central Pacific faced a slightly below-average hurricane season, with just two or three tropical cyclones expected because of lower sea surface temperatures.
By JAYMES SONG
Associated Press Writer