Hurricane Lane, threatening a direct hit as Hawaii's worst storm in a quarter century, on Thursday churned toward Oahu, the island with the largest population, as schools, government offices and business closed and residents stocked up on supplies.
Hawaii's inexperience with storms of Lane's caliber will make that preparation more hard.
Lane has already poured more than a foot of rain on portions of the island during the past 24 hours, including 12.43 inches in Waiakea Uka above Hilo, 13.28 inches at Hilo airport, and 17.68 inches at the Waiakea Experimental station gauge.
Maui County officials warned that those needing to use Molokai's shelter should get there soon because of concerns that high surf could make the main highway on the south coast of the island impassable.
The Navy pulled ships and submarines out of Pearl Harbor before the Hawaiian Islands started getting pounded by strong gusts and torrential rain. Kauai and Niihau are under a hurricane watch, meaning hurricane conditions are possible and that winds of at least 39 miles per hour are anticipated in the coming days.
"That means that readiness is important - readiness to make sure we can fulfil our responsibility and the critical infrastructure lifelines".
Earlier this year, forecasters predicted that 2018's hurricane season could be as eventful as 2017's devastating turn of events. This sideswipe, however, from the hurricane is expected to bring about 15-20 inches of rain, which could contribute to catastrophic flooding and mudslides.
Surfers were observed taking advantage of the calm before the storm to get out on their boards one last time Wednesday before the ocean got too violent. As of Wednesday, the Big Island as well as Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe are under a hurricane warning.
However, the NWS has said that the storm, which is more than 200 miles (322 kilometers) wide, will cause significant unsafe weather in Hawaii even if it only skirts the state.
"We encourage all those in the path of the storm to listen to the instruction of state and local authorities as it relates to evacuation orders and shelter locations", Sanders said.
He says it's not safe for emergency crews to search for them because of landslides and rivers of rain blocking roads.
Based on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) predictions, Hurricane Lane is expected to continue to weaken as it approaches the islands.
President Trump "swiftly approved" it, he said.
President Donald J. Trump issued a disaster declaration Wednesday, authorizing the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate disaster relief efforts with the state.