Hawaii County, Maui public schools closing for Hurricane Lane

On Tuesday night, the National Weather Service announced that Hurricane Lane had strengthened to become a Category 5 hurricane, which means that it is likely to cause catastrophic damage with winds 157 miles per hour or above.

As of the Tuesday morning update, Hurricane Lane was a category 4 storm, with maximum sustained winds near 250 km/h.

The most powerful storm on record hitting Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 that made landfall on Kauai island on September 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Roofs and walls will collapse, and the winds will knock down trees and power pole.

Wind shear is still expected to weaken Hurricane Lane as it approaches the state, but at the current moment, the hurricane is still at the height of its strength.

Damaging tropical storm force winds could begin as early as Wednesday night in Maui County, with risky hurricane force winds possible starting Thursday, the weather service said.

CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV reports a hurricane warning was issued Wednesday for Maui County and a hurricane watch for Kauai County.

Hurricane Watches are in effect for the eastern half of the island chain, meaning hurricane-force winds are possible near the area within 48 hours. Hawaii County remains under a hurricane warning, and Oahu under a hurricane watch. The storm's path is still far from certain, with the National Hurricane Center's cone of uncertainty still showing a wide swath from Thursday onward.

While tropical storms and hurricanes regularly roam in the waters nearby Hawaii, direct effects from storms as intense as Lane are unusual, and its population is not well-accustomed to them.

A swell generated by Lane could bring very large and rough surf and unsafe rip currents for south- and southeast-facing shores, the weather service said.

The storm is now southeast of the Hawaiian Islands and is expected to turn northwest and pass the south-southeastern part of the Big Island tonight (Aug. 22).

The state Department of Education says Maui County and Big Island schools will be closed starting Wednesday. In addition, all library programs statewide scheduled from today to Sunday were canceled.

Longtime Hawaii residents recalled a devastating 1992 hurricane as they prepared for Hurricane Lane. Early indications showed that the south end of the island up to the western side would be taking the brunt of the storm.

As Hurricane Lane hurtles toward Hawaii, images captured from space show the full extent of the massive storm.

On Tuesday, Hawaii residents scrambled to prepare for the storm's arrival.

With the storm's impending arrival, Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for Kona Community and Kohala hospitals, said staff has been working to ensure both facilities are ready should people need care.

He said: "Hurricane Lane has the potential of bringing the state of Hawaii serious and perhaps record damage".