Hawaii, still reeling from Hurricane Lane, braces for Olivia

FILE PHOTO: A sign warns of danger at a waterfall swollen by rain from Hurricane Lane in Hilo, Hawaii, U.S., August 25, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester

By Dan Whitcomb

(Reuters) - Hawaii residents and visitors still drying out from Hurricane Lane braced on Wednesday for a drenching from Tropical Storm Olivia, which was expected to punish Maui and Oahu with heavy rains, high winds and flash flooding.

Though Olivia was weakening, Hawaii officials urged residents to hunker down, conserve water and prepare for the worst as the eye of the storm spun past the islands carrying winds up to 50 miles (85 kilometers) per hour.

"Just because Olivia is forecast to be a weaker storm than Lane, the impacts could be significantly worse, Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa told a news conference.

"Even if Olivia is likely going to arrive as a tropical storm, Hawaii is still in danger of experiencing high winds, heavy rains, high surf, storm surges and flooding that threaten to cause significant damage to public and private property," Arakawa said.

Public schools across Maui and Oahu were closed on Wednesday, along with government offices, and parks and buses were not running scheduled routes. Evacuation shelters were opened for residents and visitors to ride out the storm, and commuter flights between the islands were canceled.

The city and county of Hawaii issued an advisory that large swells generated by Olivia were expected to hit the Big Island, bringing "dangerously high and potentially damaging surf, mainly along exposed east-facing shores."

Though Hurricane Lane also diminished from the Category 5 storm it once was before approaching Hawaii, it lashed the Big Island with rain and wind for more than two days, unleashing severe flooding and mudslides that forced multiple road closures, and damaging or destroying a number of homes and other structures.

On the U.S. East Coast, officials ordered evacuations across the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence approached as a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, threatening up to 40 inches of rain in some areas and intense inland flooding.

(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Leslie Adler)