The island of Hawaii declared a state of emergency on Monday, closing schools and setting up shelters, as Hurricane Flossie approached the Pacific state's southeastern waters.
Flossie weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 3 at midday on Monday, but remains a "dangerous hurricane with a clear, well-defined eye," according to the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Flossie's strength was not expected to change over the next 24 hours, it said.
The service put the island of Hawaii under a hurricane watch early on Monday and said Flossie would come within 140km of the so-called Big Island around 2pm yesterday.
Winds at that time will be at 65kph to 80kph and surf will exceed 5m. Torrential rainfall of up to 25cm was expected along the southeast shore, said Ray Tanabe, National Weather Service warning coordination meteorologist.
Governor Linda Lingle signed an emergency disaster proclamation, which activates the Hawaii National Guard. Mayor Harry Kim also declared a state of emergency on Monday as a precaution.
All 56 public schools, as well as private schools, on the Big Island also were closed yesterday.
The Big Island is largely rural, with about 150,000 people, and most live in the west or northeast, not the southern portion expected to be hit hardest by the hurricane. Other islands are expected to get much less of the storm's wind and rain.
The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was in 1992, when Iniki ravaged Kauai, killing six people and causing US$2.5 billion in damage.
Meanwhile, a moderate earthquake struck the Big Island at 7:38pm on Monday, about 40km south of Hilo, a preliminary report from the US Geological Survey said. The quake measured 5.3 on the Richter scale.
There were no reports of injuries, structural damage, although the quake did cause a small landslide,a Hawaii County Civil Defense spokesman said.