Hurricane Douglas gained strength as it skirted just north of Hawaii late on Sunday, but so far spared the islands the direct hit that forecasters had feared.
The hurricane pelted some areas with winds of 90 miles per hour and torrential rains as it passed by Oahu on Sunday, the National Hurricane Center reported. A hurricane warning remained in effect late Sunday for the western islands of Kauai and Niihau, but forecasters expected the storm to pass north of the islands.
If Douglas, which was downgraded to a Category 1, made landfall over the islands, it would have been only the third hurricane in modern times to do so.
Only two storms since modern record-keeping started in 1900 are known to have struck the islands: In 1992, Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai as a Category 4 storm, killing six people and causing about $3 billion in damage. In 1959, Hurricane Dot caused about $5.5 million in damage.
Though the islands avoided a direct hit, the combination of high water levels, storm surge and large breaking waves could raise water levels by as much as two feet above normal tides near the center of the storm, the center warned.
Forecasters predicted three to six inches of rain on the main Hawaiian islands, possibly contributing to flash flooding and landslides.
Earlier in the day, Maui County asked residents to shelter in place or move to an emergency shelter immediately if they lacked a safe place to weather the storm. Much of the county has already been through the brunt of the storm with minimal damage, said Mayor Michael Victorino of Maui County.
Tourism has been severely affected by both the storm and the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Victorino said. On any given day, the county received about 8,000 visitors. Over the last few days, there have been less than 50 visitors per day, which has made the job of emergency management much easier.
“That was the blessing,” Mr. Victorino said. “We didn’t have to work so hard and concern ourselves with the visitors.”
Upon entering the state, all travelers have a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine. Maui’s visitors are sheltering in place at hotels, Mr. Victorino said. If it becomes dangerous, local shelters can separate those who are self-quarantining or who have the coronavirus.
Thirteen shelters opened on Sunday in Honolulu, including the Hawaii Convention Center, which can hold 1,600 people, with social distancing, Honolulu’s mayor, Kirk Caldwell, said at a news conference on Saturday.
Officials have warned that space at the shelters may be constricted because of social distancing policies. Gov. David Ige of Hawaii said the authorities would monitor capacity at the shelters and open more if necessary.
In Maui County, which has about 167,000 residents, fewer than 30 people have gone to a shelter, Mr. Victorino said.
“Due to Douglas’s angle of approach to the islands, any wobble in the track could lead to significant differences in where the worst weather occurs,” the center said. “Even if the center remains offshore, severe impacts could still be realized over the islands, as they extend well away from the center.”
“We don’t just focus on the wind,” Mr. Feltgen said on Friday about the storm. “You have to look at the water impacts on this thing as well. Very heavy rainfall.”
Marie Fazio and Daniel Victor contributed reporting.