The US state of Hawaii braced for Hurricane Douglas on Sunday as the storm approached the Pacific archipelago after the year’s first Atlantic hurricane lashed Texas.
The Category One hurricane had moved north of Maui as of 3:00pm (0100 GMT Monday) and was about 145km east of the capital Honolulu, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Douglas was packing winds of up to 140km/h.
It is rare for hurricanes to make landfall in Hawaii. Should Douglas do so, it will be only the third storm in modern history, the last two being Hurricane Dot in 1959 and Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
Earlier on Sunday, Hurricane Hanna was downgraded to a tropical storm after lashing coronavirus-hit Texas.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Maui county, although local media reported that skies began clearing over the island by mid-afternoon. Maui mayor Mike Victorino said there were no reports of serious damage.
Hurricane warnings were also in effect for Kauai county, as well as Oahu – the island on which Honolulu, a city of just under 350,000 – is located.
The National Hurricane Centre said earlier on Sunday: “Gradual weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, but Douglas is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the islands.”
The NHC said the storm was expected to bring life-threatening and potentially destructive surf and rainfall of up to 15 inches on higher terrain.
In Honolulu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell opened evacuation centres with space for 1,600 people – but warned they should be used as a “last option” and that those needing shelter would need to have a mask or face covering, have their temperature taken and comply with social distancing requirements, local media reported.
He tweeted on Sunday evening: “If you are sheltering away from home today, please remember that #COVID19 is not taking a break for the storm. Please continue to wear a mask and physically distance as much as is practical.”
Meanwhile, Storm Hanna was downgraded to a tropical depression on Sunday.
It was still packing winds of around 55km/h an hour as of 4:00pm (2100 GMT), after crossing from the Lone Star state over northeastern Mexico, the National Hurricane Centre said, adding that it should dissipate by Monday.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or widespread damage, and both Mexico and Texas had lifted all coastal storm warnings by afternoon.
Damage appeared limited in the immediate aftermath of Hanna’s arrival on Padre Island, a 182km-long barrier island off the Texas coast, around 5:00pm (2200 GMT) on Saturday.
Images captured by CBS showed roads and a caravan park in the Texas coastal city of Corpus Christi strewn with debris and downed trees.
Some motorists even braved flooded roads, while one hardy storm-watcher was seen calmly taking pictures of the beach from a wind-swept promenade.
Local authorities were readying for the possibility of tornadoes into the evening in southern Texas, as the American Red Cross opened three shelters across the state in preparation.
Images shared by the National Weather Service office in Corpus Christi showed water lapping at the city’s bayfront Art Museum of South Texas.
The Texas State Aquarium said it would be closed following some storm damage.
Hanna hit as Texas faces a huge surge in Covid-19 infections, with officials instituting a state-wide mask mandate to curb the spread of the disease.
The US is the hardest-hit country in the coronavirus pandemic, with some 4.2 million cases, and authorities will have to figure out how to safely shelter residents forced out of their homes by future hurricanes this season.