Hawaii Braces for Impact of Tropical Storm Felicia

As if 50 mph winds aren't enough to worry about, Tropical Storm Felicia now brings the potential of deadly landslides to the Pacific paradise of Hawaii.

The storm was 395 miles east-northeast of the Big Island at 5 a.m. ET today, according to KITV, an ABC affiliate in Hawaii. Felicia is traveling west at about 10 mph.

High surf warnings are already in effect for the eastern-facing shores, as waves could potentially exceed 18 feet.

"We want to minimize our first responders having to go out unnecessarily, especially with 10- to 15-foot surf expected on the east-facing shores," Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi told the Honolulu Advertiser.

Landslides Near

In 2007 and 2006, two years in which no hurricanes or tropical storms made landfall on the island chain, heavy rains led to isolated landslides and even some "home sliding."

KITV reported earlier this morning that crews have been working overtime in the Aina Haina area, just outside Honolulu, in order to prevent a repeat of previous problems.

Crews have been working to break apart boulders and ensure proper drainage to avoid serious damage that has resulted from less-threatening weather in the past.

But the tropical storm may be downgraded to a depression by the time it hits the island of Hawaii later today, according to KITV 4 meteorologist Justin Fujioka.

Felicia was at her height Thursday when winds reached a high of 140 mph and the storm garnered a Category 4 rating.

Hurricane Felicia May Be Down but Not Out

The downgrade may not necessarily be good news for the smaller islands, as tropical depressions and storms can produce erratic winds, with the strongest winds not necessarily near the center. Julie Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the The Associated Press that even if the hurricane moves off track, multiple islands could experience intense conditions.

The Pacific Region Headquarters of the National Weather Service has maintained heavy rainfall and flash flood warnings, regardless of the intensity of the storm, which they say has already begun to weaken as it continues toward Hawaii.

The agency predicts that Felicia's eye, no matter what the storm is considered, will make landfall on the Big Island Tuesday evening.

Despite the rarity of a major storm making landfall on the island chain, Hawaiians are bracing for the worst as tumultuous weather poses unpredictable threats for the tropical paradise.

The last hurricane to threaten Hawaii, Flossie, never made landfall but brought high surf and heavy rain that caused minimal damage in 2007, according to the AP. The last major storm to make landfall was hurricane Iniki, which killed six and left about $2.3 billion in damage in 1992.

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