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Hawaii ‘dodged a bullet,’ as Lane weakens to tropical storm

Hawaii residents breathed a sigh of relief as Hurricane Lane disintegrated into a tropical storm, but authorities warned that its thrashing winds and relentless rain will remain a threat into the weekend.

Lane dumped more than 40 inches of rain in some parts of the Big Island over several days, sending residents fleeing life-threatening flash flooding and landslides.

It weakened to a tropical storm Friday, a major downgrade for what was a Category 3 hurricane just a day earlier.

Weakening is forecast through the weekend, with Lane expected to become “a remnant low” by late Saturday or Sunday, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said.

The islands “dodged a bullet,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. While they will not face the full fury of a Category 3 hurricane, residents and tourists should remain vigilant as heavy rains, flash flooding and landslides are still a threat.

On Saturday, Lane’s maximum sustained winds were near 65 mph with higher gusts, according to the center’s latest bulletin. The storm is 130 miles (210 kilometers) south-southwest of Honolulu.

It’s “moving slowly” toward the north-northwest, south of Hawaii and its outer rain bands are bringing severe floods to parts of the islands, the center said.

“Lane is moving north-northwest at near 3 mph (6 km/h), and this general motion is expected to continue through this morning. This will likely be followed by a turn toward the west with an increase in forward speed starting later today or tonight. This westward motion is forecast to continue through Sunday,” the center said.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for Oahu, Maui and Hawaii counties, while a tropical storm watch was in effect for Kauai County. A warning means tropical storm conditions are expected while a watch means tropical storm conditions are possible.

“Lane’s outer rain bands will produce excessive rainfall this weekend, which could lead to additional flash flooding and landslides. Lane is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 20 inches in some areas. Localized storm total amounts well in excess of 40 inches have already been observed along the windward side of the Big Island,” the center said.

The center of the storm is not expected to come ashore though the eye wall could pass dangerously close to the central islands, including Oahu and Maui, in the coming days.

But it’s the Big Island of Hawaii — the easternmost island in the chain — that has been hammered hardest by rain. Lane’s threat came as Maui residents battled two brush fires, including one that caused evacuations in a resort area.

Track the storm here

Gov. David Ige said there is still a potential for flooding and first responders remain on the job. Tropical Storm Lane’s slow, lingering movement means it will dump more rain in the area, potentially leading to more flooding, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Despite the flooding and landslides making headlines nationwide, many tourists were unfazed, with nearly 300,000 currently visiting the state, US Sen. Mazie Hirono said.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct that Kirk Caldwell is the mayor of Honolulu.