Hawaiians have been urged to buckle down with supplies as the island prepares to be hit by Hurricane Lane, a Category 4 cyclone. The department is also coordinating with the 375,000-strong Filipino community through the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu.
Thunderstorms associated with the storm are producing heavy rainfall and flash flooding on the Big Island.
In anticipation of the storm, which is expected to hit Oahu Thursday afternoon, Hawaii's Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation on Tuesday that will "provide relief for disaster damages, losses and suffering" caused by Lane as well as "protect the health, safety and welfare of Hawaii residents and visitors".
"The state is going to be heavily impacted", said Jeff Byard, associate administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Living in an isolated island state also means the possibility that essential goods can't be shipped to Hawaii if the storm shuts down ports.
There are only a few storms in the Central Pacific. To the north, Oahu was under a hurricane warning while Kauai remained on hurricane watch meaning it could face such conditions starting Friday morning.
A hurricane warning is in effect for Hawaii County and Maui County, comprising Maui, Lanai, Molokai and Kahoolawe.
In Maui County, damaging tropical storm-force winds could begin late Thursday and risky hurricane-force winds Thursday night and early Friday.
People have been rushing to stores for supplies and are stocking up on canned foods, ramen, water and toilet paper.
"Filling up [the] tank and stuff".
Authorities are asking people to seek shelter before it's too late or stay in their homes if they believe those structures can withstand hurricane winds.
CALGARY-Hurricane Lane's path toward Hawaii has forced WestJet to cancel all inbound flights to the islands for the next two days.
A small group of volunteers from Arizona traveled to Hawaii with the American Red Cross on Wednesday to help residents prepare for and recover from an incoming hurricane. "We're planning for the worst", he said, "and hoping for the best".
Rain is expected to accumulate to 10 to 20 inches and more than 30 inches in certain areas, the NWS said.
"The combination of a unsafe storm surge and large breaking waves will raise water levels by as much as 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels along south and west facing shores near the center of Lane", the hurricane center said.