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Douglas threatens Hawaii as Hanna downgraded to tropical storm

  • Ronen Zilberman

    Agence France-Presse

Honolulu, United States   /   Mon, July 27, 2020   /   10:10 am
 Douglas threatens Hawaii as Hanna downgraded to tropical storm This image obtained from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Hurricane Douglas (center) at 2240UTC on July 26, 2020, in the Pacific Ocean over the Hawaiian islands. Pacific Hurricane Douglas -- was bearing down on the Hawaiian islands July 26, 2020, and was expected to move over parts of the state later in the day and on Monday. A hurricane warning was in effect for Maui and Kauai counties, as well as Oahu -- the island on which Honolulu, a city of just under 350,000 -- is located. (Agence France Presse/NOAA/AFP)

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 was about 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of the capital Honolulu at 12:00 pm (2200 GMT), packing winds of up t0 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

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 Sunday, Hurricane Hanna was downgraded to a tropical storm after lashing coronavirus-hit Texas.

A hurricane warning was in effect for Maui and Kauai counties, as well as Oahu -- the island on which Honolulu, a city of just under 350,000 -- is located.

"Gradual weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, but Douglas is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves through the islands," the National Hurricane Center said.

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 centers 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.

"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," Caldwell tweeted Sunday evening.

Roads flooded in Texas

The storm once known as Hurricane Hanna, meanwhile, was downgraded to a tropical depression Sunday.

The storm was still packing winds of around 35 miles (55 kilometers) an hour as of 4:00 pm (2100 GMT), after crossing from the Lone Star state over northeastern Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said, adding 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 110-mile-long barrier island off the Texas coast, around 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) 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.