Hawaii may face a direct hit from a Category 5 hurricane later this week.
The National Weather Service on Tuesday night said that Hurricane Lane had been upgraded to a Category 5 storm, meaning it has the potential to bring winds in excess of 157 miles per hour (253 km/h) and cause severe damage to Hawaii's islands.
"Major Hurricane Lane is passing to the south-southeast of the Big Island tonight and is expected to begin a turn northwest toward the islands later today," The National Weather Service said.
"The center of Lane will track dangerously close to the islands Thursday through Saturday."
The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for the storm, which is the most severe alert level. A hurricane warning means a hazardous weather event is "imminent or likely".
The weather service further warned that "life-threatening impacts are likely" as the hurricane makes its closest approach to Hawaii, and issued a hurricane watch for Oahu, Maui, and other Hawaiian islands as meteorologists closely track the storm.
Beyond wind damage, the National Weather Service warns that powerful hurricanes like Lane can cause intense rain, tidal surges, flooding, and even localised tornadoes.
Even if the center of the hurricane doesn't make landfall, rough surf, rain, and wind could still cause flooding and severe damage to communities in Hawaii.
Hawaii Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on Tuesday to "provide relief for disaster damages, losses and suffering" associated with the storm.
The state's Department of Emergency Management issued a flash flood warning throughout the state and said flooding associated with the hurricane could become a "very dangerous situation."
Hawaii residents have rushed to prepare for the oncoming hurricane, stocking up on non-perishable foods, bottled water, and life essentials like toilet paper, according to the Associated Press (AP).
Schools in Maui and Oahu will be closed starting Wednesday, and all non-essential government employees on those islands will be put on administrative leave, according to the AP.
Hurricanes rarely make landfall in Hawaii as the central Pacific sees fewer storms than the Atlantic, and Hawaii is a "small target" in the Pacific Ocean, according to CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.
Earlier this year, the Kilauea Volcano erupted on Hawaii's Big Island, causing widespread damage to property in communities across the eastern side of the island.
While the hurricane is expected to hit the south and west sides of the Big Island – based on current tracks – residents are bracing for the storm across the state.
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
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