Felicia now a Category 2 hurricane as it heads toward Central Pacific


POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Hurricane Felicia strengthened today as it heads toward the Central Pacific on a track that brings it within striking distance of the Big Island by early next week

Felicia is also one of two tropical cyclones headed west across the ocean, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At 5 p.m., Felicia was about 1,900 miles east-southeast of Hawaii and moving west-nortwest at 12 mph, forecasters said. The rapidly intensifying storm has maximum sustained winds near 100 mph with higher gusts making it a Category 2 hurricane. Hurricane force winds extend about 35 miles from the center.

The storm could intensify in the next 36 hours, according to the National Hurricane Center.

However, the storm is expected to move over cooler waters in about three days which could help to destabilize it.

The storm should cross into the Central Pacific early Saturday, forecasters say, adding that it is too early to tell how big the storm will be or where it will be as it nears the islands.

The current forecast has Felicia east of the Big Island as a tropical storm by Sunday.

Behind Felicia is Tropical Storm Enrique, which at 5 p.m. was 785 miles southwest of the southern tip of Baja, California.

It is moving west-northwest at 15 mph and has sustained winds of 50 mph with stronger gusts. The storm is expected to weaken in the day or two, hurricane center said forecasters said.

These are the fifth and sixth storms in the Eastern Pacific this hurricane season.