The storm hovered a little over 500 miles off the coast of the Big Island late Monday and early Tuesday morning and was moving west at 10 miles per hour, according to the hurricane center. The storm could reach maximum winds of 130 miles per hour, with gusts exceeding that speed, causing heavy rains and surf.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Lester, a category three storm nearby, continued to weaken. The storm was about 1,355 miles off the coast of Hilo and moving at a speed of 14 miles per hour by Tuesday morning.
Authorities from the County of Hawaii, of which the Big Island is a part, advised residents to restock their emergency kits with first aid supplies, medication, cash, and batteries. Residents in affected areas should also make an emergency evacuation plan and conserve non-essential use of water, such as irrigation, while ensuring vehicles were fueled and their phones charged, the county said in a statement.
The projected hurricane winds and heavy rains are set to coincide with a scheduled visit from President Obama on Wednesday, who is planning to arrive with a group of dignitaries and scientists for the World Conservation Congress on sustainable development.
Flight traffic at Kona airport on the west side of the big island remained normal on Tuesday, though 50 percent of arriving planes were listed as late, according to FlightView. Delays were expected at Hilo International on the east side of the island, where 50 percent of departures were delayed and arrivals were not yet listed.
Visitors traveling to the region, particularly on Wednesday and into Thursday should be aware of the possibility of flight delays. Travelers can check with their air carriers for updates as well as on the websites of the two major airports on the big island, Kona and Hilo.
The National Hurricane Center will also periodically offer updates on the status of both storms on its website here.
Hawaii has a history of narrowly avoiding hurricanes, being hit only a handful of times since 1950. Its small size in particular makes landfall unusual.
“Hawaii is a small target in the big ocean, so it just has to be really good timing and the conditions have to be right for us to get a direct hit,” Eric Lau, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Honolulu, told Associated Press in 2014.
Jess McHugh is a digital reporter for Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @MchughJess.