Hurricane Flossie is bearing down on Hawaii with maximum sustained winds of 140mph

Hurricane Flossie is expected to pass about 100 miles south of the Big Island of Hawaii late Tuesday or early Wednesday, by which time forecasters predict it will have weakened to a category 3 hurricane, with 120-mph sustained winds and 12-foot waves.

“At this position, tropical storm force winds could reach the Big Island. It is important to note, however, that there is still considerable uncertainty with respect to Flossie's future track, and even a slight change in course could bring it closer to the coast,” said Dr Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide.

“The category 4 storm packs maximum sustained winds of 140mph and is moving west-northwest at 15mph,” Dailey added.

According to Carvill’s ReAdvisory service, Flossie’s impact on Hawaii is likely to be limited to the sparsely populated Big Island.

Winds over the Big Island are most likely to reach tropical storm force, potentially gusting to hurricane strength. A major peril will be significant rainfall and flash flooding.

However, ReAdvisory notes that the Big Island, indeed most of Hawaii) is currently suffering from a moderate to severe drought – the rainfall produced by Flossie may not be entirely unwelcome.

Since, 1950—when reliable data for this part of the Pacific became available—five damaging tropical cyclones have impacted Hawaii. The most recent was in 1992 when Hurricane Iniki ravaged the island of Kauai, causing $1.6bn in insured losses.

“Prior to Iniki, Hurricane Iwa passed just north of Kauai as a Category 1 storm and caused insured losses of $137m,” said Dailey. Were Iwa to recur today, AIR estimates that losses could reach $500m.

“Since 1950-when reliable data for this part of the Pacific started becoming available, five damaging tropical cyclones have impacted Hawaii,” continued Dailey. “This spring, slightly cooler sea surface temperatures (SST) in this region of the Pacific caused some meteorologists to lower the hurricane forecast for the 2007 season. Hurricane Flossie has proved resistant to the effects of cooler SSTs, however, and persists in its track as a large, well-formed category 4 storm.”