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article imageMadeline weakens to tropical storm as it passes Hawaii

By AFP     Sep 1, 2016 in Environment

Tropical Storm Madeline weakened from hurricane status as it passed south of Hawaii's Big Island overnight on Wednesday, but still threatens flash floods and mudslides, US weather officials said.

The storm was around 175 miles (280 kilometers) south of the island, Hilo, as of 0600 GMT Thursday, churning maximum sustained winds of 65 miles an hour as it moved southwest at 15 miles per hour, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) said.

"This general motion is expected to continue tonight with a gradual turn toward the west on Thursday and Friday," it predicted.

Schools on the Big Island were closed and emergency shelters set up.

The storm had threatened to disrupt a visit by President Barack Obama and dignitaries meeting in Hawaii for the World Conservation Congress, a major conference of thousands of delegates, including heads of state, scientists and policy makers.

Obama is set to fly three hours west of Honolulu to visit a marine reserve near the Midway Atoll on Thursday.

Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 105 miles from the Madeline's center.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Hawaii County and Maui Country, which includes the islands of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

Surf swells will peak Thursday night, and could be damaging to eastern shorelines, the US weather agency said.

"Madeline is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 5 to 10 inches, with isolated maximum amounts near 15 inches, across Hawaii County," the CPHC said.

The storm peaked at a dangerous Category Four hurricane strength east of Hawaii on Tuesday.

It is expected to continue weakening over the next two days as it turns west.

Another storm, Hurricane Lester, stronger than Madeline with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles an hour, is moving into the central Pacific Ocean north of Hawaii.

Weather officials said they expect it to cause no damage.

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