Schools, governments and businesses have closed while residents stocked up on food, water and other supplies and boarded up homes.
The hurricane, classified as a powerful Category 4 storm, was packing sustained winds of up to 145mph (230 km/h) and could dump as much as 20in of rain over parts of the US Pacific island state, triggering flash flooding and landslides, the National Weather Service (NWS) warned.
Additional reporting by agencies
Here are the latest updates on Hurricane Lane, a powerful Category 4 storm which is churning towards Hawaii and threatening to bring dangerous winds, flash flooding and landslides to the US Pacific island state.
Officials in Hawaii have warned there may not be enough storm shelter space for everyone.
Dangerous, hurricane-force winds were expected to hit Hawaii's Big Island overnight and slam Maui on Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.
To the north, Oahu was under a hurricane warning while Kauai remained on hurricane watch meaning it could face such conditions starting on Friday morning.
"Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion," the centre said.
"Life threatening impacts are likely in some areas as the hurricane makes its closest approach."
Hawaii's governor, David Ige, urged residents to prepare for the worst by setting aside a 14-day supply of water, food and medicines in the event of major damage to roads and infrastructure.
"I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and prepare for a significant impact," he told a news conference in the state capital, Honolulu.
He also announced all public schools, University of Hawaii campuses and non-essential government offices on the islands of Oahu and Kauai would be closed for at least two days starting on Thursday.
Officials opened shelters on the Big Island and on the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai on Wednesday.
They urged those needing to use the Molokai shelter to get there soon because of concerns the main highway on the south coast of the island could become impassable.
On the island of Oahu, which was put on a hurricane warning late Wednesday, shelters were scheduled to open Thursday.
Officials were also working to help Hawaii's sizeable homeless population, many of whom live near beaches and streams that could flood.
Officials have said there's not enough shelter space statewide and advised those who are not in flood zones to stay home.
They warned the limited shelter space should be a "last resort" and aren't designed to withstand winds greater than about 40mph (64.3kph).
"Whenever possible, the public should plan to shelter in place or stay with family or friends in homes outside of these hazard areas that were designed, built, or renovated to withstand anticipated conditions," the city and county of Honolulu said in a news release.
The most powerful storm on record to hit Hawaii was Hurricane Iniki, a Category 4 storm which made landfall on Kauai island on 11 September, 1992, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It killed six people and damaged or destroyed more than 14,000 homes.
Hawaii's governor, David Ige, has cautioned that tropical storm conditions "are expected to begin over portions of Maui county on Thursday, with hurricane conditions expected in some areas Thursday night into Friday."
Donald Trump has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and administration officials to remain in close coordination with the state, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.
"The president is deeply concerned for the well-being of all Hawaiians," she said.
Hawaii's governor confirmed Donald Trump has approved a request for emergency aid as Hurricane Lane approaches the islands.
David Ige said the presidential disaster declaration means Hawaii will have easy access to federal resources as communities recover from any damage or losses caused by the hurricane.
The declaration authorises the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance for emergency measures required to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety.
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