Storm set to weaken but could pose threat
Hurricane Cosme is expected to near the Big Isle late Friday
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The first major storm to threaten Hawaii this year, Hurricane Cosme, is expected to weaken to a tropical storm as it reaches the islands Friday night but could bring considerable rainfall and gusty winds, especially for Big Island residents.
Though it is too early to predict the hurricane's effect on the state, officials say winds could reach a speed of 45 mph as it passes near the southern tip of the Big Island.
The National Weather Service expects to issue a hurricane watch or warning by tomorrow and warns residents to be prepared in any case for the hurricane season.
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The eye of Hurricane Cosme disappeared yesterday afternoon in an indication that the system will likely weaken, but forecasters say it could still pose a threat, with storms across the state expected this weekend.
It started out as a tropical storm early yesterday morning but was upgraded to a hurricane after its winds intensified to about 75 to 80 mph.
Hurricane Cosme was about 1,600 miles southeast of the Hawaiian Islands yesterday and created breezy tradewinds for the state. The tradewinds are expected to continue until Friday, while clouds and rainfall should decrease today.
But National Weather Service officials predict Cosme will be about 1,000 miles away by tomorrow morning, prompting either a hurricane watch or warning.
The hurricane is expected to weaken as it hits cooler waters and approaches the southern tip of the Big Island on Friday night and into Saturday with winds reaching a maximum of 45 mph.
"It's too soon to say where exactly the storm is going to hit," said Peter Donaldson, National Weather Service forecaster. "It's definitely something for people to be paying attention to. Right now it looks like the biggest threat is to people on the Big Island."
In previous years, tropical systems that passed near the southern part of the Big Island typically brought increases in wind speeds and rainfall all over the islands, Donaldson said.
"The system is still a threat to the islands," Donaldson said. "If people haven't gotten ready for hurricanes in general, this is a good time to do it whether or not the storm hits the island."
Troy Kindred, head of Hawaii County Civil Defense, said they are preparing for the storm's arrival by planning for increases in emergency response personnel and opening of evacuation centers.
Boaters making their way from Los Angeles to Honolulu in the biennial Transpacific Yacht Race said they are noticing an increase in winds from Cosme but do not see any major threats, said event spokesman Rich Roberts. The first of 72 boats are expected to arrive Saturday, he said.
The first boat was about 1,300 miles away from Hawaii yesterday, Roberts said.
"They are getting some of the spinoff," Roberts said yesterday, "but they don't think it's going to affect most of the fleet that's coming."
Though the hurricane should weaken, it could bring heavy rain and powerful winds, and residents should take the warnings seriously and not wait until the last minute to finish preparations, Kindred said.
"All residents of Hawaii should be prepared because that storm can change direction any time," he said.