Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it approaches Hawaii, but officials say the storm remains dangerous.

The storm has already brought torrential rain causing severe flooding and landslides to the state's Big Island and is now approaching the island of Oahu.

The outer bands of the storm dumped up to 3ft of rain on Big Island in 48 hours, with the main town of Hilo
flooded with waist-high water as landslides shut down roads.

Almost 16,000 homes and businesses on the islands lost power, firefighters conducted several rescues of people stranded by high water and two neighbourhoods were evacuated.

Image: Surfers ride swells on Waikiki Beach despite warnings against it

But while some people have been left reeling from the effects of Lane, swimmers and surfers ignored warnings from authorities and plunged into powerful waves at the Oahu's Waikiki Beach.

Emergency officials said repeatedly over loudspeakers: "Please get out of the water. It's very dangerous!"

Honolulu's mayor had pleaded with tourists that they were putting themselves in danger as the storm moved closer.

The US National Weather Service downgraded the storm to a tropical storm with winds of up to 70mph as it headed north toward the islands.

Incoming waves tower over bystanders in Kona, Hawaii, U.S. August 23, 2018 Credit: Ryan Leinback 3:43
Video: Hawaii braces for Hurricane Lane

It was expected to veer west, skirting the islands, but still threatened to bring heavy rains and strong, gusty winds across the state.

More from Hawaii

A hurricane watch for Hawaii's westernmost inhabited islands, Kauai and Niihau, was downgraded amid warnings that Lane could trigger flash flooding and inflict wind damage.

The central Pacific gets fewer hurricanes than other regions, with about only four or five named storms a year. The last major storm to hit Hawaii was Iniki in 1992.

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