HONOLULU (Reuters) - The island of Hawaii breathed a sigh of relief on Wednesday as Hurricane Flossie weakened to tropical storm on its westward path, prompting cancellation of all storm warnings after two days on high alert.
The National Weather Service downgraded the once powerful Flossie to a tropical storm late on Tuesday as it passed South Point on the “Big Island,” the largest in the Hawaiian chain and home to 160,000 people.
The storm got no closer than 100 miles of South Point, the southernmost point of the United States.
By 5 a.m. (11 a.m. EDT) on Wednesday, the weather service canceled a tropical storm warning, a high surf warning and flash flood watches for the Big Island.
Surf did reach as high as 20 feet on southern shores late on Tuesday, said Troy Kindred, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator.
“We were ready in the event that things got worse,” said Kindred. “I think this was a pretty close call.”
Flossie approached Hawaiian waters as a Category 4 hurricane, causing the weather service to put the island of Hawaii on hurricane watch and officials to declare a state of emergency on Monday.
The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was 15 years ago.
On the Big Island, police, firefighters and civil defense officials spent Tuesday night monitoring the storm’s impact. Reports from the field came in every hour.
“I‘m happy to report we did not have much damage at all,” Kindred said. “With what the weather service had been saying, I feel incredibly lucky the way it turned out. That storm was well defined and moving at a brisk pace.”
Weather service officials had predicted up to 10 inches (25 cm) of torrential rain that never materialized and there were no reports of flooding, Kindred said.
It was a similar story with the wind. With the exception of 40 mile-per-hour (65 kph) gusts at the normally blustery South Point, the rest of the island experienced winds of 15 mph to 20 mph (24-32 kph).
At daybreak, Flossie was around 270 miles south of Honolulu with sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph).
The storm was losing its strength so rapidly that it could become a tropical depression later on Wednesday, Hawaii’s Civil Defense said.
The island government said schools would remain closed on Wednesday, but parks would reopen and shelters would be dismantled.
The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was in 1992, when Iniki pummeled the island of Kauai, killing six people and causing estimated damages of $2.4 billion.