In spite of earlier predictions that Hurricane Iselle would weaken to tropical storm status as it approached Hawaii this week, the storm has maintained its vigor and will reach the Big Island late Thursday, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. Not to be forgotten, a second hurricane, Hurricane Julio, is just steps behind Iselle and on a similar march toward the islands.

iselle Satellite image of Hurricane Iselle, taken by NASA. Photo: Creative Commons/NASA

"What ended up happening is the storm has resurged just enough to keep its hurricane strength," Mike Cantin, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Associated Press. "Not a major hurricane, but definitely enough to blow things around.”

When Iselle, a Category 1 hurricane, makes landfall Thursday night, it will be Hawaii’s first direct hit in 22 years. The islands will experience 5 to 8 inches of rain within a short time frame and strong winds of 60 to 70 miles per hour with gusts of 85 miles per hour, according to meteorologists. Officials expect waves to reach 10 to 15 feet in height and warn of possible flooding and mudslides in some areas. State officials prepare for the storm by warning beachgoers to stay away from the water and advising residents to stock up on nonperishable foods.

hurricane-graphic Graphic shows the positions of hurricanes Iselle and Julio early Thursday morning. Photo: NOAA

Hawaii will have little time to recover from Iselle before a second hurricane, Hurricane Julio, also a Category 1 hurricane, approaches over the weekend. Scientists say Julio may only skim the islands, or even miss them completely, sparing residents from a second round of heavy rainfall and dangerous surf.

Hurricane Iselle reached Category 4 status on Monday before it weakened to a Category 1, but then gained some strength again on Wednesday. The National Weather Service Forecast Office in Honolulu tweeted early Thursday morning that Iselle had winds of 85 miles per hour with gusts topping 105 miles per hour. “It’s a fairly potent hurricane by Hawaiian standards,” Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth said.



Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed an emergency order on Wednesday allowing state officials to use money from a state disaster fund in their response to the hurricanes. "The sole purpose is to see to it the health and safety of the people of Hawaii is first and foremost," Abercrombie said at a news conference.

Only three hurricanes have hit Hawaii since 1950. The last was in 1992, in September, when Hurricane Iniki bore down on the island state. The storm killed six people and caused $1.8 billion in damages.