Batten Down the Hatches; Here Comes Flossie 

Flossie could be the first tropical storm or hurricane to hit Hawaii in 21 years.

Hawaii is battening down the hatches as Tropical Storm Flossie heads its way. If the storm maintains wind speeds of 39 miles an hour or more, it will be the first tropical storm or hurricane to hit Hawaii in 21 years.

The tropical storm is expected to reach the Big Island by midday, dumping 6 to 10 inches of rain in many areas and up to 15 inches in others.

“The Big Island and Maui are where the worst impacts are going to be,” Kristina Pydynowski, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania, told Bloomberg Businessweek.

Officials have closed the ports of Hilo and Kawaihae on Hawaii and Kahului on Maui. Alaska Airlines has cancelled its Hawaii-bound flights on Monday through noon Pacific Time.

The carrier also has instituted a flexible rebooking policy for Monday (July 29) and Tuesday (July 30) that allows most Hawaii passengers to make one change to their itineraries without the standard change fee. The policy, which includes some restrictions, covers passengers flying to or from Hawaii's Honolulu, Lihue, Kahului/Maui and Kona airports.

Alaska Airlines is one of the top carriers on routes between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. The carrier offers at least seasonal service to four Hawaiian airports more than a half-dozen mainland cities as well as from Anchorage.

To free up disaster funds, should they be needed, Gov. Neil Abercrombie has issued an emergency proclamation in advance of the storm.

Hawaii last experienced a big storm in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki brought Category 4-force winds of 140 mph to Kauai, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

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