HONOLULU (CBSNews/AP) — Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a Category 2 storm Friday as it churns slowly north-northwest toward the Hawaiian Islands. The storm’s sluggish movement is bringing prolonged rain and increased the risk of flooding and landslides.

As of Friday morning, the hurricane’s center was about 200 miles south of Honolulu and moving north at 5 mph.

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“The slow movement of Lane also greatly increases the threat for prolonged heavy rainfall and extreme rainfall totals,” the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. “This is expected to lead to major, life-threatening flash flooding and landslides over all Hawaiian Islands.”

TORRENTIAL RAIN SHAPING UP AS MAIN EVENT

Hurricane Lane’s slow pace was emerging as the biggest concern.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center, in Honolulu said, “Excessive rainfall associated with this slow moving hurricane will continue to impact the Hawaiian Islands into the weekend, leading to significant and life-threatening flash flooding and landslides.”

A National Weather Service meteorologist describes flooding on Hawaii’s Big Island as catastrophic, with parts of the island soaked with 35 inches of rain in 48 hours.

Watch: Friday Morning’s FEMA Briefing On Hurricane Lane 

“On the latest forecast track, the center of Lane will move over, or dangerously close to portions of the main Hawaiian islands late Friday and Friday night,” the center said. “Some weakening is forecast from Friday through late Saturday, but Lane is expected to remain a hurricane as it approaches the islands.”

Hurricane-force winds were extending outward up to 35 miles from Lane’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 125 miles.

LANE ON “PERILOUSLY CLOSE” TRACKS TO HAWAII, FORECASTERS SAY

Forecasters say Lane’s current track has the storm coming “perilously close” to the main Hawaiian Islands Thursday into Friday as a hurricane, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB reports. In addition to downpours, the hurricane is pushing up wave heights and could mean strong winds.

“Hurricane Lane is still a dangerous and powerful storm,” said Gov. David Ige, in a news conference on Thursday.

“Lane, while it’s been downgraded, is wide and very moist and it’s going to hang around for a while,” said Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell.

HOSPITALS PREPARE FOR SURGE IN PATIENTS

Hawaii’s hospitals prepared for a surge in patients as Lane neared, CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB reports. The director of Hawaii’s Department of Health told KGMB that having enough hospital space in case of a huge influx is a major challenge.

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“Basically, our health care system is very fragile in that respect. Our hospitals are full. They can’t afford to keep beds open for people in the event of storms like this,” said Bruce Anderson, director of the Hawaii Department of Health. “Fortunately, in this case we actually have a federal agency that has sent two teams here, 30 people on each team, with resources to help support establishing medical facilities if need be.”

The Queen’s Medical Center and its West Oahu facility postponed all elective procedures and surgeries on Friday and Saturday, KGMB reports. The hospitals are stocked up with supplies and the generators are ready. Employees have gone through training to deal with natural disasters or any large influx of patients.

“We’re a level-one trauma center, the only one in the state, and we’re really prepared for that. Then there’s after the event, if it’s really catastrophic, you see things such as dehydration, exhaustion, infections,” said Dr. Leslie Chun, chief medial officer at The Queen’s Medical Center.

Windward Oahu, Adventist Health Castle on Oahu said it had activated its 24/7 incident command center and has supplies ready for staff and patients. Other area hospitals also said they were ready if needed.

TOURISTS RESCUED, FLIGHTS CANCELLED

A brush fire on Hawaii’s island of Maui has forced the relocation of a shelter for people who were staying there as Hurricane Lane approaches Friday.

Emergency crews rescued five California tourists from a home they were renting in Hilo after a nearby gulch overflowed and it flooded Thursday.

Suzanne Demerais said a tiny waterfall and small stream flowed near the home when she first arrived with four of her friends from the Los Angeles area. But the stream turned into a torrent and the river rose rapidly over 24 hours. Hawaii County firefighters, who were in touch with the home’s owner, decided to evacuate the group before the water rose further. They floated the five out on their backs, Demerais said.

“It was quite an experience because we weren’t planning to have a hurricane during our vacation time,” Demerais said.

United Airlines canceled its Friday flights to and from Maui. The airline added two additional flights from Honolulu to San Francisco on Thursday to help transport people off the islands.
Hawaiian Airlines canceled all Friday flights by its commuter carrier, Ohana by Hawaiian.

Hawaii’s biggest hotels are confident they can keep their guests safe as long as they stay inside, said Mufi Hannemann, CEO of Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association.

“The only concern is those that venture outside of the properties, that would like to hike on a day like this or who would like to still go into the ocean and see what it’s like to take a swim or surf in these kind of waters,” Hannemann said.

Honolulu shopping malls and office buildings closed early on Thursday and planned to shut their doors Friday.

Shelters were open throughout the islands, with 350 people in them in Oahu. Aid agencies were also working to help Hawaii’s sizable homeless population, many of whom live near beaches and streams that could flood.

Because there’s not enough shelter space statewide, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Tom Travis urged people who were not in flood zones to stay home.

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