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The most powerful storm on record hitting Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 that made landfall on Kauai island on September 11, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Meteorologist Melissa Dye shortly before 5:30 a.m. Wednesday said the hurricane was 320 miles (515 kilometers) southeast of Hilo and moving north-northwest at about 9 mph (15 kph).

The biggest impact is likely to be on the Big Island Thursday and Friday. Offshore buoys also had detected wave action associated with the storm.

Residents will experience extremely powerful winds, heavy rain, storm surge and potentially even tornadoes and waterspouts as the hurricane progresses, according to a statement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service.

Packing 155-mile per hour (250 km/h) winds, the storm could dump as much as 20 inches (50 cm) of rain over parts of the archipelago, triggering major flash flooding and landslides, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's showing a significant swing to the north as it kind of makes its way around the Big Island", said Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator, on Monday morning.

HONOLULU -Hurricane Lane, a powerful Category 4 storm in the Pacific Ocean, is a threat to the Hawaiian Islands, forecasters say. It was unclear when the system would make an expected turn west and barrel toward the island chain.

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He also announced that all public schools, University of Hawaii campuses and non-essential government offices on the islands of Oahu and Kauai would be closed for at least two days starting on Thursday.

With emergency officials upgrading the severity of the storm's impact to Hawaii Island and Maui County to a Hurricane Warning, county civil defense agencies urged HIDOE to close campuses as a safety precaution.

Residents have reportedly been rushing to stock up on necessities to before the storm hits. "Hurricane Watches may be needed for other areas as Lane draws closer", NWS said.

Iniki's turn into the islands was sudden, he recalled.

"When it did happen, I just remember pandemonium". He said his school held classes in Army tents for months after the storm.

Bryce and Dom Boeder of Waimea, Kauai, load their truck with storm supplies in the parking lot of a Walmart store in Lihue, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.