Hurricane Lane strengthens to Category 5 storm as it nears Hawaii

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At 6:30 PM Tuesday, Lane strengthened into a Category 5 storm and has a maximum sustained winds near 160 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Slight weakening is expected during the next couple of days, but Lane is forecast to remain a risky hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands.

A swell generated by Lane could bring very large and rough surf and risky rip currents for south- and southeast-facing shores, the weather service said.

The forecast puts the storm very close to the islands, with a direct landfall possible later this week.

Lane is only the second category 5 hurricane on record to pass within 560km of Hawaii, according to the NWS.

"This isn't Florida. The landscape and infrastructure are different".

Hurricane Lane could bring rainfalls of close to half a metre. "If the storm were to make a significant impact on the island of Oahu, in particular, it could cause flooding at Honolulu International Airport, the oil refinery at Barbers Point, and several large military installations, including Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam", it noted.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration has been sending multiple aircraft into and around the storm in order to help observe the hurricane and improve the forecast, providing a better idea of the threat Lane presents to Hawaii.

A hurricane watch means hurricane-force winds are possible within the area in the next 48 hours.

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Tropical storm-force winds and torrential rain could start arriving on Wednesday.

The Category 4 storm was located about 410 miles south-southeast of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and 575 miles south-southeast of Honolulu as of the CPHC's 11 a.m. HST update.

"A turn toward the northwest is expected on Wednesday, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Thursday".

Iniki's turn into the islands was sudden, he recalled. The storm is moving west at 9 miles per hour.

Forecasters say slow weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, but Lane is forecast to remain a risky hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands.

Life-threatening weather conditions can extend well away from the center of the hurricane and interests throughout Hawaii are urged to closely monitor the progress of Lane over the next few days.

Hurricane Lane is a Category 5 storm on Wednesday morning.

However, the storm has attained an annular structure, meaning its large eye is surrounded by a single, uniform ring of thunderstorms. The hurricane could hit the Big Island as early as Wednesday afternoon and move through the rest of the islands to Kauai until Thursday evening, Eaton said. It may take until the weekend for Lane to succumb to wind shear and weaken to a tropical storm.