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Hawaii County under state of emergency; residents get ready

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 11:15 a.m. HST, Jul 29, 2013

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HILO>> Hawaii island Mayor Billy Kenoi announced all non-essential county workers are to stay home today as Tropical Storm Flossie sets its sights directly on the island.

Kenoi made the decision Sunday afternoon after consulting with acting Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira at the Hilo Emergency Operations Center,

State agencies have been told to use their own discretion in determining whether to open their offices and services today.

Most schools in the island don't start until later this week but Oliveira said his staff was still checking private and charter schools to learn of their plans.

The county also announced that all of its parks were closed by the end of Sunday evening. The state made a similar regarding its beach parks about 8:30 p.m.

Oliveira said the latest data appears to show the storm now heading in a more southern direction, putting it on course to move directly into Hilo.

Evacuation shelters are being opened at nine locations at 4 a.m. Hisaoka Gym in North Kohala, Waimea Community Center, Honokaa Community Center, Laupahoehoe Elementary School, Aunty Sally's Luau Hale in South Hilo, Pahoa Community Center, Mountain View Elementary School, Pahala Community Center and the West Hawaii Civic Center in Kailua-Kona.

The Pahala, Mountain View and Kailua-Kona locations were added by Hawaii Civil Defense at 6:15 p.m. Sunday following the news that the storm was heading in a more southerly direction.

Hawaii Red Cross volunteers will be opening the shelters along with county officials. The Red Cross encourages people  to bring their disaster supply kits with them to the shelters.

Kenoi earlier in the day declared a state of emergency for the island.

"Due to the possibility of property damage and/or bodily injury to residents of Hawaii Island, and the need for government agencies and representatives from the private sector to mobilize and provide immediate services to our island residents, a Civil Defense state of emergency is authorized," the mayor's proclamation says.

The state of emergency is in effect from 1 p.m. today until further notice.

About 85 families who were part of a Department of Hawaiian Home Lands-sponsored camping event at South Hilo's Keaukaha Beach Park, many of whom have been there since the first week of June, were told to vacate Sunday afternoon.

Johna Polino, of Panaewa, and her family had already finished cleaning up their camp site and were helping others remove their tents and pallets.

Polino said she was somewhat disappointed that the outing had to end but understood the reason why. "It's fine with me," she said. "Safety comes first."

But not everyone was heeding the call.

Joyce Ganon, who said her family have been camping at the park every summer for 15 years, said no one had come by to tell her party to leave.

"We're going to stay," Ganon said. "If it gets really bad, we're gonna leave."

She added: "My kids no like leave; they're water babies."

At the Target store in Hilo, a steady stream of last-minute shoppers were heading in and out with various essential supplies.

Andrew and Jolanda Rosario and their sons Austin and Aaron, picked up coolers, water and other items.

Target, Home Depot and Wal-Mart were all already out of "D" batteries by dark, said the Rosarios, residents of Mountain View in upper Puna.

Home Depot was out of bottled water by noon, Andrew Rosario said.

At first the family wasn't going to make a last-minute shopping trip but "I got worried after 5 o'clock after I turned on the TV," Jolanda Rosario said, noting that forecasters at that point were projecting the storm to head farther south.

The county is also opening evacuation centers as Flossie nears the island. Evacuation shelters will be open by 4:00 a.m. today at the following sites: Pahoa Community Center, Aunty Sally"s Luau Hale, Laupahoehoe Charter School, Honokaa Sports Complex, Waimea Community Center, Hisaoka Gym in North Kohala, Mt. View School, Pahala Community Center, West Hawaii Civic Center.

Hawaii Red Cross volunteers will be opening the shelters along with county officials. The Red Cross encourages people  to bring their disaster supply kits with them to the shelters.

The storm is expected to bring tropical storm force winds late tonight and pass over the island today.

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