Hurricane Flossie Sideswipes Hawaii's Big Island

This image provided by NOAA shows the position of Hurricane Flossie at 1:00 p.m. EDT. i

This image provided by NOAA shows the position of Hurricane Flossie at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The storm is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain to Hawaii's islands. AP Photo/NOAA hide caption

itoggle caption AP Photo/NOAA
This image provided by NOAA shows the position of Hurricane Flossie at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

This image provided by NOAA shows the position of Hurricane Flossie at 1:00 p.m. EDT. The storm is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rain to Hawaii's islands.

AP Photo/NOAA

Hurricane Flossie brushed Hawaii's Big Island on Tuesday, hours after residents were rattled by a 5.3 magnitude earthquake and dozens of aftershocks.

Schools closed and shelters opened in anticipation of the hurricane, which was downgraded to a Category 2 with top sustained winds of 110 mph. Forecasters said it would lash the shores with strong winds, up to 10 inches of rain and waves up to 20 feet.

The earthquake 25 miles south of Hilo Monday night caused a small landslide, but there were no reports of injuries or structural damage, said Tom Brown, a spokesman for Hawaii County Civil Defense.

More than two dozen aftershocks followed, the largest measuring at 3.2 magnitude, said Jim Kauahikaua, scientist in charge at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency dispatched a 20-person advance emergency response team to Hawaii, which arrived Monday in hopes of easing the blow of the storm, spokeswoman Kim Walz said.

"Instead of waiting for an actual disaster and then going in and providing support, we want to be ready," she said. "We've begun to move resources into place ahead of time to be prepared."

The team includes specialists in areas of transportation, aviation, public works and health.

Residents on the largely rural island were continuing with their plans to weather the hurricane. They are stocking food, water and other staples as Hurricane Flossie winds their way.

Those preparations became even more urgent after the quake and its aftershocks.

"This has been very widely felt across the main island of course, and even some areas beyond that on other islands," said Amy Vaughan of the National Earthquake Information Center.

"We have people ... most likely experiencing a large rattling of objects in their homes – maybe even their windows potentially breaking or other fragile objects rolling off shelves or off counter cabinets," she added.

No injuries have been reported from the quake, which was just fractions away from classification as a large earthquake. (Large earthquakes have a magnitude 6.0 and greater, according to the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center.)

Meanwhile, Gov. Linda Lingle has declared a state of emergency, which activates the National Guard to help as needed with either the earthquake or hurricane.

Hurricane-force wind of at least 74 mph extended outward up to 40 miles from the center of the storm, while tropical storm force wind of at least 39 mph extend outward up to 145 miles.

Meteorologists cautioned that even a slight change of course could bring the storm closer to land.

"This is too close for comfort," said National Guard Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the state adjutant general.

The last time a hurricane hit Hawaii was 1992, when Iniki ravaged Kauai, killing six people and causing $2.5 billion in damage.

Pete Donaldson, forecaster for the National Weather Service, says the Big Island will feel tropical storm-force winds, experience waves up to 20 feet high, and torrential rainfall of more than 10 inches.

"Probably the flooding from rainfall and from the big surf pounding on the coast will be more significant than the winds," Donaldson said.

All schools, including the University of Hawaii-Hilo, and all public parks on the Big Island of Hawaii are closed.

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.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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