Hawaii is preparing for a dangerous category four hurricane which could hit the islands within hours.

Hurricane Lane was downgraded to a category four storm, with sustained winds of 155 mph, but officials say it is still close to category five strength.

Forecasts say the islands will face strong winds and surging waves even if the storm does not make landfall.

The last category five storm to come this close to the US island chain was John in 1994.

The US National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning for the Big Island and a hurricane watch for the islands of Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai as of Wednesday morning local time.

The NWS warned that “life threatening impacts are likely” to is Hawaii, regardless of whether the storm makes landfall.

“The centre of Lane will track dangerously close to the Hawaiian islands from Thursday through Saturday,” the weather service said.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office issued a revised travel advisory due to the approach of Hurricane Lane.

“If you’re in the area, you should be vigilant, take necessary precautions, monitor local news broadcasts and follow the advice of local authorities,” the FCO said.