Hurricane Flossie, a Category 3 storm, heads toward waters south of Hawaii
HONOLULU (AP) -- Hurricane Flossie strengthened to a Category 3 storm early Saturday as it headed toward waters south of Hawaii, but forecasters did not expect it to hit the state with much more than rough surf.
At 5 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Flossie had strengthened from a Category 1 storm to a Category 3, with maximum sustained winds near 115 mph, and was about 1,150 miles from Hawaii.
The storm was expected to weaken as it passed over cooler waters. It was traveling west at about 12 mph.
The Big Island's southeastern shores could see waves of 8 to 12 feet, forecasters said, with the surf rising during the day Monday and peaking Tuesday. The island's South Point is the southernmost area of the United States.
Flossie formed as a tropical storm Wednesday about halfway between Mexico's southern Pacific coast and Hawaii. Its winds surpassed 74 mph, making it a hurricane, on Friday.
The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was in 1992, when Iniki ravaged Kauai, killing six people and causing $2.5 billion in damage.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. In May, forecasters predicted that Hawaii and the rest of the central Pacific face a slightly below-average hurricane season, with just two or three tropical cyclones expected because of lower sea surface temperatures.
The islands get an average of 4.5 tropical cyclones a year and one hurricane about every 15 years. Last year, the central Pacific had five tropical cyclones after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted two to three.
On July 21, a tropical depression moved past the Big Island, bringing a few inches of rain to the parched island but no major problems. Cosme, the year's first Pacific tropical cyclone, reached hurricane status for a day before it weakened.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)