Weather & Natural Disasters

Iselle Weakens to Tropical Storm as Hawaii Eyes Hurricane Julio

Alastair Jamieson and Alexander Smith
Hawaii braces for hurricanes

Hurricane Iselle was downgraded to a tropical storm as it neared Hawaii early Friday, but still packed winds of up to 70 mph and heavy rains that left thousands of residents on Big Island without power.

Fearing the first hurricane to hit Hawaii in nearly a quarter century, hundreds earlier flowed into emergency shelters set up at high schools. Flood advisories were in effect, with between 4 and 8 inches of rain forecast.

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"The ground floor of our building is completely flooded," said Sarah Dhallan, a college student from Bethesda, Maryland, on a family vacation south of Hilo. "It's pretty dramatic stuff."

Hurricane Iselle
Source: NOAA | Facebook

At least 5,200 customers island-wide were without power, Hawaiian Electric told NBC station KHNL. Iselle was expected to pass over the Big Island then hit the rest of the state Friday.

A second Category 3 storm, Julio, was close on Iselle's tail with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. It was projected to barrel just north of the islands Sunday.

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"You can have confidence. We are prepared," Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie told reporters on Thursday.

Alastair Jamieson and Alexander Smith, NBC News. The Associated Press contributed to this report.