State and county officials and emergency responders are bracing for Tropical Storm Darby’s anticipated arrival today on Hawaii island and Maui.
Darby was 205 miles east-southeast of Hilo and 415 miles east-southeast of Honolulu as of 5 p.m. Friday.
The storm, bearing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph with higher gusts, was moving west at 12 mph. Tropical storm-force winds — those measured at 39 mph or faster — extended up to 125 miles from the center of the storm.
>> Today: Tropical storm effects were being felt on Hawaii island overnight, and Darby could make landfall on the island by this afternoon. The storm then is expected to continue on to possible landfall on Maui later in the day.
>> Sunday: A weakening but still powerful storm was expected to continue to buffet Maui early in the day before moving on to Oahu. Expect high surf, dangerous winds, heavy rain and flooding.
Visit staradvertiser.com for up-to-date reports on Tropical Storm Darby.
The storm is expected to make a turn to the northwest, but not until tonight, after its center passes Hawaii island.
Forecasters said the storm could drop 10 to 15 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, which could cause life-threatening flash floods and landslides.
The National Weather Service issued several advisories in anticipation of the storm, including tropical storm warnings for Hawaii and Maui counties; a tropical storm watch for Oahu; high-surf warnings for the east-facing shores of Hawaii island and Maui; a high-surf advisory for east-facing shores of Molokai, Oahu and Kauai; and a flash flood watch for Hawaii island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Oahu through Sunday afternoon.
Gov. David Ige signed a statewide emergency proclamation Friday.
The Governor’s Office said “the proclamation authorizes the expenditure of state monies for quick, easy and efficient relief of disaster-related damages, losses and suffering resulting from the storm.”
Ige said, “Our top priority is to protect the health, safety and welfare of Hawaii’s residents and visitors. I urge residents and businesses to follow emergency instructions, prepare for the storm and take steps to protect your families, employees and property. The state is standing by to assist the counties — particularly Hawaii and Maui counties — which are expected to be the first to feel the impact of Tropical Storm Darby.”
‘Wait and see’ on Oahu
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi also signed an emergency proclamation Friday.
On Oahu, Mayor Kirk Caldwell said he would hold off declaring a state of emergency for the island until there is more information on how close Darby will get.
“We’re going to wait to see what the National Weather Service has to say,” Caldwell said, noting an emergency proclamation has been drafted and is ready to be signed. “With almost a million people living on this island, we want to make sure that before we impact the daily lives of people, that it’s something that we absolutely have to do.”
The last tropical storm to hit Hawaii island, Iselle in 2014, was torn apart when it ran against Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Iselle hit the Puna area hard, but the mountains protected the rest of the state from the worst of the storm.
Darby however, could come ashore north of Puna or miss the Big Island.
If it comes ashore on Maui, forecasters said, Haleakala would likely weaken it, but it’s not clear by how much.
A path north of Maui would mean the storm will likely maintain its winds and rain, but because the strongest winds and rain are to the north of the center, the impacts could be less depending on how far north Darby passes.
Several precautionary measures were underway on Hawaii island Friday. All camping and pavilion reservations at county and state parks were canceled. Lava viewing and swimming pools are closed through Sunday. All state and county park facilities and remote areas of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are also closed until further notice.
Hele-On Bus service is on hold until further notice. Resumption of service will depend on road and weather conditions. Solid-waste transfer stations and landfills will also be closed today. Umauma Bridge on Highway 11 was closed, with a detour established through Old Mamalahoa Highway.
Civil Defense officials advised Hawaii island residents to shelter in place or with family and friends. Otherwise, the following pet-friendly emergency shelters are open: Waiakea High, Kalanianaole Elementary, Keaau High, Pahoa High, Honokaa High and Intermediate, Kealakehe High, Konawaena High and Kau High.
Shelters that are not able to accommodate pets are open at Hilo High, Laupahoehoe Community Charter School, Mountain View Elementary, Waikoloa Elementary and Kohala High and Elementary. Shelter users are advised to bring their own bedding, food, water, medicines and any personal items they might need.
On Friday, Hawaii island residents hit the stores to prepare for the storm.
“They are being more proactive, preparing,” said Debbie Arita, KTA Super Stores administrative assistant. “They’re looking for batteries and water, but it’s not a panic situation.”
In Puna, residents were shopping Friday for a few essentials at the Pahoa Ace Hardware. The store ran out of sandbags but still had other basics needed to weather the storm.
“Everybody’s preparing, getting flashlights, candles and bungee tie-downs,” said supervisor Shawntel Waiwaiole at one of two hardware stores in Puna.
On Oahu, residents were expected to feel the worst effects from Darby starting tonight or early Sunday.
“There’s still huge uncertainty about this storm and its track,” said city Emergency Management Director Melvin Kaku. “So all of our planning must be flexible.”
Police, fire and emergency medical personnel are on standby through the storm, but no extra people were scheduled to report.
Meanwhile, city buses will operate on a regular Saturday schedule, all city parks will remain open and there will be regular trash pickup.
The Honolulu Fire Department urged hikers to stay away from mountains Sunday, while the Department of Emergency Services advised those with kayaks, canoes and stand-up paddleboards to stay out of the water.
Jun Yang, the city’s homeless services coordinator, said social service workers have been scouring beaches, shorelines and the edges of other waterways across the island urging people to stay away from areas prone to flooding. A decision on whether to open shelters for the homeless will also be made sometime today.
The Mango Jam that began Friday on the grounds of the Honolulu Civic Center is expected to stay open through today. Sunday’s Tin Man Triathlon has been postponed indefinitely. The Kaimuki High School carnival was to open Friday but not run today and Sunday, and then reopen next weekend.
Tourism officials ready
City work crews have been cleaning city waterways throughout the week, city Facility Maintenance Director Ross Sasamura said. Because the storm is expected to travel along a track north of Oahu, Friday’s efforts were focused on the Windward side of the island, including Kaelepulu Stream, which flows through Enchanted Lake and Kailua Beach Park.
John Cummings, department spokesman, said a core crew will begin 12-hour shifts at the Emergency Operations Center beginning at noon. “If we need to ramp up and add more, we’ll go from there,” he said.
Meanwhile, hospitality industry officials have been making sure that visitors are kept safe and informed.
“There are 244,870 visitors in the Hawaiian Islands at any given point of time,” said Randy Baldemor, Hawaii Tourism Authority chief operating officer. “We’ll do our best to keep them informed. Our message is always ‘Aloha and welcome to Hawaii,’ but with the tropical storm we want visitors to be safe and use their best judgment on how they enjoy the Hawaiian Islands. Hiking may not be the best activity, being in the ocean not the best idea in some areas because of the swell.”
Baldemor noted that 24-hour call centers were established but as of Friday afternoon had not received any calls.
Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging & Tourism Association, said the situation is “business as usual,” but island hotels are ready to act should the tropical storm watch be upgraded to a warning.
“We don’t want to cry wolf if it’s pretty much at a stage that’s manageable,” he said. “But we are prepared to move to the next level if in fact it warrants that kind of dedication.”
Leanne Pletcher, director of marketing communications for Hilton Waikoloa Village, said an advisory letter was placed on the in-room TV channel and on reader boards throughout the property. She said the hotel will use social media channels to further communicate with guests.
Star-Advertiser reporters Craig Gima, Gordon Y.K. Pang and Leila Fujimori contributed to this story.