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Hurricane Lane lashes Hawaii, 5 tourists rescued from flooded home

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Lane lashes Hawaii with torrential rains, flash floods' Hurricane Lane lashes Hawaii with torrential rains, flash floods
WATCH ABOVE: Hurricane Lane lashes Hawaii with torrential rains, flash floods – Aug 24, 2018

Sirens wailed while workers piled sandbags in front of hotels and police blared warnings to tourists to leave the world-famous Waikiki Beach as Hurricane Lane barreled north after dumping nearly two feet of rain on Hawaii’s mostly rural Big Island.

READ MORE: Hawaii deals with flooding as Hurricane Lane carves path toward islands

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

WATCH: Flash flooding on Hawaii Island’s Puna District as Hurricane Lane hits

Click to play video: 'Flash flooding on Hawaii Island’s Puna District as Hurricane Lane hits' Flash flooding on Hawaii Island’s Puna District as Hurricane Lane hits
Flash flooding on Hawaii Island’s Puna District as Hurricane Lane hits – Aug 24, 2018

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.

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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.

Hurricane Lane, whose centre was still offshore, lashed the Big Island with nearly 50 centimetres of rain in about 24 hours. It had maximum sustained winds near 193 kph, making it a Category 3 hurricane.

WATCH: Emergency officials provide update on Hurricane Lane 

Forecasters say the centre of the storm will move close to or over parts of Hawaii’s main islands late Friday, bringing dangerous surf of six meters.

About 320 kilometres north of Hilo, on the state’s most populated island of Oahu, employees of the Sheraton Waikiki resort filled sandbags to protect the oceanfront hotel from surging surf.

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Stores along Waikiki’s glitzy Kalakaua Avenue stacked sandbags along the bottom of their glass windows to prepare for heavy rain and flash flooding.

Police on loudspeakers told surfers and swimmers to get out of the water, saying the beach would be closed until further notice.

The Marriott Resort Waikiki Beach in Honolulu designated a ballroom on the third floor as a shelter for guests and began removing lounge chairs from around the pool and bar area.

At the Hilton Hawaiian Village, guest Elisabeth Brinson said hotel staff left a notice that the rooms will still have water and phone service, and a backup generator would power one elevator per building in the event of a power outage.

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Brinson, a native of the United Kingdom now living in Denver, said many shops were closed, and those still open were frantic with people buying food, beer and water to take back to their rooms.

WATCH: WestJet sends recovery flights to Hawaii before Hurricane Lane hits

Click to play video: 'WestJet sends recovery flights to Hawaii before Hurricane Lane hits' WestJet sends recovery flights to Hawaii before Hurricane Lane hits
WestJet sends recovery flights to Hawaii before Hurricane Lane hits – Aug 23, 2018

“We knew it was coming, so I tried to just cram as much as I could into the last few days in anticipation so we could cross things off of our list,” said Brinson, who is accustomed to hurricanes after living in Florida.

Lane was not projected to make a direct hit on the islands, but officials warned that even a lesser blow could do significant harm. Some areas could see up to 80 centimetres of rain.

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.

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READ MORE: Canadians warned to avoid Hawaii travel as Hurricane Lane approaches

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.

WATCH: Hurricane Lane’s impact on travellers

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Lane’s impact on travellers' Hurricane Lane’s impact on travellers
Hurricane Lane’s impact on travellers – Aug 23, 2018

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

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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.

The National Weather Service downgraded the Big Island to a tropical storm warning, meaning it expects sustained winds of 39 mph (62 kph) to 117 kph on the island instead of stronger hurricane force winds.

But a hurricane warning remains in effect for Oahu and Maui County.

WATCH: Hurricane Lane dumps nearly 2 feet of rain on Hawaii’s Big Island 

Click to play video: 'Hurricane Lane dumps nearly 2 feet of rain on Hawaii’s Big Island' Hurricane Lane dumps nearly 2 feet of rain on Hawaii’s Big Island
Hurricane Lane dumps nearly 2 feet of rain on Hawaii’s Big Island – Aug 24, 2018

The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. Hawaii rarely gets hit. The last major storm to hit was Iniki in 1992. Others have come close in recent years.

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Because people in Hawaii are confined to the islands, they have to make sure they have enough supplies to outlast power outages and other potential emergencies.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency moved several barges packed with food, water, generators and other supplies into the region ahead of Hurricane Hector, which skirted past the islands more than a week ago, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said.

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