Hurricane Douglas closing in on Hawaii

Shops have been boarded up as Hurricane Douglas approaches Hawaii as a Category 1 storm.
Shops have been boarded up as Hurricane Douglas approaches Hawaii as a Category 1 storm.

Hurricane Douglas has come within "razor-thin" distance of the Hawaiian Islands but has spared the state the worst of the strong winds, storm surge and flooding officials had warned about.

Meteorologists cautioned the hurricane's path could shift slightly and Douglas could still unload its destructive power on the islands of Oahu and Kauai.

"It's still not out of the realm of possibilities. So we want people to really remain vigilant and stay prepared, at least for tonight," Eric Lau, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu said Sunday.

Late on Sunday, Douglas was 105km northeast of Honolulu. It had maximum sustained winds of 140km/h, making it a Category 1 hurricane.

Heavy rain and wind gusts battered Maui during the morning, downing a small tree on the Hana Highway.

Gentle rain fell and blustery winds swayed trees on Oahu, home to the state's biggest city, Honolulu. Sand and debris washed ashore on a two-lane coastal road.

Despite the dangers, surfers rode waves and residents took selfies at a lookout point next to the ocean.

Lau said Douglas would have been a lot worse had its track been 30 to 50km to the south.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell warned Oahu wasn't "out of the woods yet" and strong winds, heavy rains and flooding could still hit.

"We're cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to issue an all clear early tomorrow morning, but our city staff is continuing to monitor any effects this storm may have overnight," he said in a statement.

About 300 people evacuated to the Hawaii Convention Center on the edge of Waikiki. On Maui, 22 people were at five shelters around the island.

State health department officials contacted each of the 625 people who were currently in isolation or quarantine as of Friday because they are either COVID-19 positive or have been in contact with someone who is. Every one of those indicated they would shelter-in-place and not seek refuge at a hurricane shelter.

Hawaii has some of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the US, but numbers have been rising in recent weeks. For three consecutive days through to Saturday, Hawaii reported record highs of newly-confirmed cases.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Hawaii because of the hurricane, directing federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled all Sunday flights between Hawaii and the US mainland and also between the islands.

Rainfall was expected to be between 18 to 38cm.

Oahu and Kauai were all under a hurricane warning. A warning for Maui and a hurricane watch for the Big Island were cancelled.

Australian Associated Press