Hurricane Madeline to pass near Hawaii, threatening visit by US President Obama

Hurricane Madeline (seen here as a tropical storm on Aug 27) is expected to pass near Hawaii in the middle of the week.
Hurricane Madeline (seen here as a tropical storm on Aug 27) is expected to pass near Hawaii in the middle of the week. PHOTO: AFP/NASA

MIMAI (AFP) - Hurricane Madeline is expected to pass near Hawaii around midweek, United States weather forecasters said on Monday (Aug 29), possibly wreaking havoc with a planned visit by President Barack Obama and other dignitaries.

Madeline is expected to travel over or near the Big Island on Wednesday, carrying heavy rain and strong winds, according to the US National Weather Service.

Its current path in the central Pacific could coincide with Mr Obama's planned visit to Hawaii for the kickoff of the World Conservation Congress, a major meeting including thousands of heads of state, scientists and policy makers.

At 9am GMT, Madeline was 1,220km east of Hilo, Hawaii.

The category one hurricane has maximum sustained winds of 140 kmh, and was moving toward the north-west at about 16 kmh.

Forecasters said, however, that models show a great deal of uncertainty about the path of Madeline, which they are tracking closely.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature stages the World Conservation Congress every four years at a different location around the globe. This year it runs from Sept 1 to Sept 10.

Mr Obama is scheduled to address the gathering on Sept 1.

The US leader is also expected to travel to Midway Atoll, inside a newly named protected area, where Mr Obama burnished his environmental bona fides last week by establishing the world's largest marine reserve, home to thousands of rare sea creatures in the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Meanwhile a hurricane in the Atlantic, Gaston, has surged to a Category Three storm, US weather trackers said.

Gaston is the first major hurricane of the Atlantic season, the National Hurricane Center.

Gaston, packing top sustained winds of 185 kmh, was stationary about 925km from Bermuda, the Miami-based NHC said at 9am GMT on Monday.

The storm was not an immediate threat to land, and was expected to remain near its current strength, picking up speed as it travels toward the northeast over the next couple of days, forecasters said.