Officials prep emergency plans with one storm expected to hit the isles in a few days and another close behind
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Aug 5, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 2:36 a.m. HST, Aug 6, 2014
Government officials kicked storm planning into a higher gear Monday as Hurricane Iselle appeared to be taking aim at the Hawaiian Islands and another powerful storm was following in its tracks.
And although Iselle is likely to weaken into a tropical storm as it approaches the state later this week, officials said strong winds, flooding rain and a storm surge may still result in evacuations.
They also warned that with the remoteness of the islands, it could be as long as a week before disaster relief operations are fully up and running, which means residents need to be prepared to take care of their emergency needs and those of their family for at least seven days.
State and county officials on Monday met with Gov. Neil Abercrombie at the Diamond Head offices of the state Department of Emergency Management in the initial briefing held in anticipation of the powerful storm.
Doug Mayne, administrator for emergency management, said the state is planning for a Category 1 hurricane but expecting a moderate tropical storm packing sustained winds of 50 to 75 mph by the time it reaches the islands Thursday and Friday. National Weather Service forecasts Monday showed gusts exceeding 80 mph in some places.
While Mayne said Iselle should be clear of the state by some point Saturday morning, officials are keeping a sharp eye on a second tropical storm, Julio, which is following the same path.
"We believe (Iselle) will impact all the islands," he said. "The track is pretty strong out the first 72 hours. After that it gets a little bit less certain."
Officials said the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Tuesday will dispatch a special team to Hawaii help with federal assistance, while the National Guard is sending a joint team of Army and Air National Guard members to assist as well.
Hawaii National Guard Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong said he's ready to mobilize airplanes, helicopters and 5,500 troops if necessary to aid an a relief effort and will call on the muscle of other military branches as well.
"We are prepared," he said.
Abercrombie said the state is as prepared as it can be at this point.
"The main thing for today is not to engage in a lot of speculation about what or might not happen," he said. "What everyone needs to do is stay alert, pay attention and work with the civil defense and emergency management agencies."
Meanwhile, Hawaii retailers Monday reported a run on survival items such as water, toilet paper and rice. A spokeswoman for Walmart in Hawaii said that while customers might see an empty shelf or two, that's only temporary because the supplies are plentiful and can be restocked for now.
Regina Torres of Waikiki said she's ready. She came out of the Walmart on Keeaumoku Street on Monday with a cart loaded with $200 worth of lanterns, batteries, flashlights, canned and dried food, a portable stove and plenty of water.
"The scare is there," she said, adding that she already made a $100 emergency trip to the market. "It's costing me a lot of money. It's cutting into my vacation."
But it's worth it, she said. Torres grew up on Saipan, and she knows what a hurricane can do, especially when it's followed by a second storm.
"It's a double whammy," she said.
With Iselle expected to make landfall on the eve of Saturday's primary election, state Attorney General David Louie met with election officials Monday to discuss ways to carry out the voting process as smoothly as possible.
Louie said the governor has powers to extend voting hours, if necessary, as he did in 2012 when stormy weather prevented access to some Big Island polling places.
"Right now we're going through a list of all the polling places and cross-referencing hurricane shelters to see if there's a conflict," he said. "We're going to have to work on those things and come with a plan. Luckily we have a few days' notice."
Abercrombie had this advice for anyone worried about being unable to vote Saturday: "The sun is shining. If you haven't mailed your ballot, do so. If you can get to an early-voting venue, do it. Aside from that, I'm sure everyone's going to do their level best to exercise their franchise (to vote)."
The state Department of Emergency Management advises residents to prepare a seven-day disaster supply kit as Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Julio approach the Central Pacific and threaten Hawaii. Officials say the disaster kit should include enough of the following items to last for seven days:
» Water: One gallon of water per person per day for seven days for drinking and sanitation.