This image provided by NOAA yesterday shows the position of Hurricane Flossie taken at 1:00 p.m. EDT. Hurricane Flossie was downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane Tuesday as it roared on course to brush the Big Island hours after guarded residents were rattled by a 5.3 magnitude earthquake. (AP Photo/NOAA)
SOUTH POINT, Hawaii (AP) - Flossie was downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm hours after sideswiping Hawaii's Big Island, turning its seas into roiling giant surf.
Flossie had delivered 30 minutes of steady rain to the small town of Naalehu on Tuesday night, but there was little significant wind.
The storm spent most of its wrath at sea, but residents stocked up on supplies and stayed home Tuesday in anticipation of possible flooding and wind damage from the first hurricane to come so close to the islands in 15 years. Schools and businesses across the Big Island were to remain closed Wednesday.
Other Hawaiian islands, including the main island of Oahu, enjoyed tropical breezes and mostly sunny skies, with little impact on tourism or commerce.
Flossie lost its hurricane status as its maximum winds dropped below 120 km/h to 112 km/h. At the time, it was about 280 kilometres south-southwest of Hilo, moving west-northwest at about 16 km/h.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu cancelled a hurricane watch for the Big Island, although a tropical storm warning remained in effect late Tuesday, meaning the island could experience winds of more than 63 km/h.
A flash flood watch for the Big Island was also cancelled as the threat of up to 250 millimetres of rain dissipated. But the Kau region could see up to 200 millimetres of rain, forecasters said.Flossie was still a hurricane as it buffeted the Big Island on Tuesday, sweeping about 153 kilometres south of South Point, the southernmost area of the United States.
Gov. Linda Lingle signed an emergency disaster declaration and cancelled a trip to the island before the storm hit. The Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched 20 transportation, aviation, public works and health experts to the island as a precaution. Emergency shelters were opened but attracted only displaced campers and a few stray tourists.
Cruise ship operator NCL America altered itineraries for its two giant ships that ply the islands.
Pride of America was to spend the day at sea Wednesday instead of calling at Kona, where a normally busy beach was empty. Pride of Hawaii had spent the day at sea Tuesday instead of having passengers go ashore at Hilo.
The storm arrived after a 5.4-magnitude earthquake centred 40 kilometres south of Hilo. The quake Monday night, followed by two dozen aftershocks, caused a small landslide, but authorities said there were no reports of injuries or structural damage.
National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the state's adjutant general, had said the storm was "too close for comfort."