A satellite image from the National Weather Service shows Hurricane Lester in the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday. The storm, preceded by Hurricane Madeline, is headed toward the Big Island of Hawaii. Madeline was expected to make landfall near Hilo Wednesday night. Image courtesy National Weather Service
HONOLULU, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A state of emergency was declared in Hawaii Wednesday as the South Pacific islands brace for Hurricane Madeline's impact.
The storm is losing strength but is still listed as a category 1 hurricane, forecasters said. Wednesday afternoon, Gov. David Ige declared an emergency for his islands.
Residents are making preparations for the storm, which is expected to pass close by -- and perhaps make landfall -- the Big Island of Hawaii on Wednesday night. Schools have also been closed.
The hurricane center projects the storm to graze South Point on the Big Island, but a direct hit is also possible.
The American Red Cross of Hawaii opened more than a dozen emergency shelters on the Big Island to accommodate those displaced by Madeline.
"We are far from out of the woods," interim Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Ed Teixeira told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Wednesday. "We want to urge our residents to please kokua, take care of one another and stay safe."
President Barack Obama was scheduled to arrive in Oahu later Wednesday after his visit to Lake Tahoe for an environmental summit.
"At this point, based on the projected track of the storm, we do not anticipate it having any impact on the president's itinerary," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a press briefing Tuesday.
Wednesday afternoon, forecasters reported that Madeline was about 70 miles southeast of the Hawaiian shore and about 90 miles southeast of Hilo and was moving westward at about 13 mph.
A hurricane warning and flash flood watch were issued for Hawaii Island, and a tropical storm watch was posted for Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.
Weather Underground forecasters predicted up to 15 inches of rain in some parts of the Big Island and up to 4 inches in Maui.
Madeline is expected to be just the third hurricane to actually make landfall in the islands -- and first to hit the Big Island -- since 1949. Hurricane Dot (category 1) and Iniki (category 4) each struck the island of Kauai in 1959 and 1992, respectively.
Another hurricane trailing Madeline, Lester, was less than 1,000 miles east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, a hurricane center report said at 2 p.m. PDT Wednesday.
Forecasters expect that storm to skirt just north and within striking distance of the entire island chain.
Lester will soon begin to weaken but forecasters still believe it will be a hurricane when it approaches Hawaii on Thursday or Friday.