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City warns of stopping Handi-Van, TheBus service

    A proposal would subject top OTS employees to the same policies as city workers.

City officials said they decided more than 24 hours in advance to cut off TheBus and Handi-Van service at the end of day Thursday to give passengers time to adjust their plans.

"It’s important to that population, in particular those who use our Handi-Van … that if they need to make adjustments, to be prepared, so we wanted to give them advance notice," Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

"We needed to give people some advance knowledge as far as what’s going to be operating," city Transportation Services Director Michael Formby said.

The mayor stressed that if the city gets word during any point that the storm has passed, and it is safe and prudent to do so, he could call for restarting bus and Handi-Van service.

Service is anticipated to resume Saturday, Formby said.

Oahu Transit Services, which runs both TheBus and Handi-Van under contract with the city, began calling up to 3,000-3,200 Handi-Van riders with Friday appointment times on Wednesday to warn them that their rides will be canceled, OTS President Roger Morton said. He noted that a large share of the 3,000-plus average daily passengers typically call in their reservations the day before a ride.

Persons who have had their rides canceled are urged to call relatives or friends to assist them Friday, or to reschedule their engagements, he said.

"We are prepared to answer some emergency calls if we have them, but our resources will be stretched," Morton said. He defined an emergency as a "life-threatening event."

The Health Care Association of Hawaii has been working with Oahu’s three dialysis center operators "to try not schedule anything on Friday," said Peter Hirai, the city’s deputy manager of emergency management.

Caldwell said about 30-40 city buses will also, starting 11 p.m. Thursday, be used to provide rides for Oahu residents, including the homeless, who want to seek refuge at any of the 10 emergency shelters being set up by the city and American Red Cross. Locations and maps are online.

Five of the shelters are even pet-friendly, Caldwell said.

Those buses will run from 11 p.m. Thursday until one-hour before Iselle is scheduled to make landfall on Oahu. The hurricane is currently forecast to reach Oahu at 6 a.m. Friday.

Caldwell urged Oahu residents to "prepare for the worst, hope for the best … but be flexible," Caldwell said. The public should stay on top of the news for possible changes in the weather, he said.

City-run parks, including Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, will close from 4 p.m. Thursday. Anyone with camping permits can obtain a refund, Parks Director Michele Nekota said. Runs, races or other scheduled park events are cancelled.

The mayor said he is withholding decisions on making an emergency declaration for Oahu, and whether to close other city services Friday, until noon Thursday when officials should have a better idea of how strong Iselle will be when it arrives.

"We don’t want to invite the public to leave their homes and conduct business with the city, nor endanger our 8,500 employees and put them down on our roads at the time of the storm’s arrival," the mayor said. "But we’re going to make that decision by noon tomorrow."

Other reports and recommendations given by city officials at Wednesday afternoon’s news conference:

Trash pickup: City trash pickup will continue through Thursday. A decision will be made by noon Thursday on whether the service will continue through Friday. Environmental Services Director Lori Kahikina said if pickup is canceled Friday, residents will be asked to remove any bins or bulky items left on the sidewalk.

Satellite city halls and driver licensing offices, Planning and Permitting application counters: All will open through Thursday. A decision will be made by noon Thursday whether they will open Friday.

First responders: Extra police and emergency medical services personnel will be available. EMS Director Mark Rigg urged residents not to call for transport to an emergency shelter, he said. The public is urged to stay away from the beach when the storm is over Oahu. Lifeguards may be pulled from their lifeguard towers as a safety measure on Friday, but will be nearby in their vehicles. Fire Chief Manuel Neves said to make sure stoves and ovens that are left on are not unattended, Fire Chief Manuel Neves said. Use battery-operated lamps and flashlights instead of candles.

Water: Residents are urged to store away one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and sanitation purposes city Water Board Manager Clifford Lau said. Tap water is as good as bottled water, he said.

Storm drains, canals and channels: Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura stressed the need to keep waterways open, and urged Oahu residents not to toss trees, branches or other debris that could block free-flowing water and leave a potential for flooding. He also urged the public not to open manhole covers in an effort to clear flooded areas because they are not designed to handle that amount of water and could cause a danger to motorists and pedestrians.

Honolulu Zoo and Neal Blaisdell Center: The zoo will be open Thursday with a decision about Friday to be made by noon Thursday. A Building Industry Association expo scheduled for this weekend will be rescheduled for sometime in September. Performances of Ballet Hawaii’s Peter Pan were still up in the air, city Enterprise Services Director Gerald Saito said.

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