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Hurricane stays strong as it nears Hawaii

August 14, 2007|From the Associated Press

honolulu -- Hurricane Flossie roared toward Hawaii on Monday with maximum sustained wind of 120 mph.

The storm could bring strong wind and heavy rain while passing less than 100 miles from them, forecasters said.

It was earlier thought that cooler weather would weaken the storm to a Category 1 hurricane, with sustained wind of at least 74 mph, by the time it passed the Big Island of Hawaii today. But on Monday forecasters said they now expected it to remain a Category 3 hurricane, with little change in strength when it passed the island.

"The intensity has remained stronger than what was originally forecast, but the track has been pretty much right on," said Jim Weyman, the National Weather Service's meteorologist in charge in Honolulu.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said Flossie "remains a dangerous hurricane with a clear, well-defined eye and good outflow. . . . It must be noted that Flossie has been surprisingly resilient to cooler ocean temperatures so far."

The 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.

Gov. Linda Lingle signed an emergency disaster proclamation, which activates the Hawaii National Guard. Hawaii County 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 ordered closed today.

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 effects of the hurricane. Other islands were expected to get much less of the storm's wind and rain.

Meteorologists cautioned that even a slight change of course in the unpredictable storm could take it closer to land.

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