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Felicia weakens further but still threatens Hawaii


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POSTED: Saturday, August 08, 2009

Felicia, a Category 1 hurricane in the Central Pacific, features 85 mph maximum sustained winds and stronger gusts as it continues weakening on a path toward the Big Island.

At 11 a.m. today, the storm was 845 miles east of Hilo, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Hurricane-force winds extend 35 miles from its center, while tropical storm-force winds extend 115 miles. It is moving west at 15 mph, the center’s forecasters said.

“Felicia is expected to be very near the Hawaiian islands Monday,” the center’s 11 a.m. advisory said. It is expected to diminish to a tropical storm by the end of today.

This Felicia advisory is the first to include data from the Air Force Reserve’s “Hurricane Hunter” flights. Hurricane center officials said the information from the first flight last night  “barely budged” the five-day forecast for the storm. Another flight is planned for tonight and a final flight is scheduled tomorrow.

The forecast has Felicia as a tropical storm when it approaches the Big Island Monday, and as a tropical depression as it passes south of Oahu Tuesday.

The hurricane is forecast to weaken slowly today, then wind shear should diminish its strength more rapidly, forecasters said.

Felicia peaked as a Category 4 storm Thursday with winds topping 140 mph.

Officials caution that Hawaii residents should continue monitoring the storm over the next few days.

Despite diminishing, Felicia still could bring heavy rains and flash flooding throughout the islands Monday through Wednesday, the National Weather Service said Friday.

In its “flood potential outlook,” the weather service said the storm’s rain bands may reach the Big Island by early Monday and spread west across the state.

The outlook notes “considerable uncertainty in the locations that will be affected, the onset and duration of heavy rains and the rainfall amounts that are expected to occur.”

High surf is another possible effect of the storm.

Residents are advised to stay tuned to NOAA weather radio and local media reports for updates.