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Lawmakers briefed on natural disaster planning needs

The Port of Honolulu is the single major supply point for the state, with the overwhelming majority of goods requiring six to eight days transit time.

Three thousand tons of food enter daily for sustainment . Forty-two containers arrive by ship an hour on average.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency today laid out for lawmakers what would happen if an event like a tsunami or hurricane hit the vital port region with three feet of water and high winds.

Sunken ships, toppled cranes and other debris could clog the harbor. In such an emergency, there would be no emergency surplus of food and water.

“That means once the port closes, we have about five to seven days, depending on when that last shipment came in, of food,” said David Lopez, HI-EMA’s critical systems planner.

Major port damage requiring heavy salvage could result in the loss of shipping imports for 19 to 30 days — prompting some officials to suggest having a 30-day supply of food and water on hand instead of the previously-recommended 14.

Air cargo moves only about 1 percent of the state’s cargo, Lopez said. Overall, the Port of Honolulu, other ports and logistics systems move about 14 million tons of products a year.

It was a bleak disaster assessment — with even more cascading effects for power, emergency services and fuel — and a review that has been going on since 2015 to evaluate the state’s capabilities to cope with such catastrophic events.

State Rep. Matt LoPresti, (D, Ewa Villages-Ocean Pointe-Ewa Beach), said the state remains “extremely vulnerable.”

LoPresti asked for the briefing on the emergency planning, which is expected to continue well into the future.

“I think there’s a lot of misconceptions and false hope that somehow the military is going to come in and save us if something terrible happens,” he said after the briefing. “We need, I think, to put out the proper message that people ought to have not just 14 days of food and water supply, but a month’s worth.”

The “critical systems vulnerabilities overview” is being done in parallel with, and overlaps in some areas, with the Feb. 18 “all-hazards preparedness improvement action plan and report” ordered by the governor and authored by Brig. Gen. Ken Hara, the state’s deputy adjutant general.

That report followed the Jan. 13 false ballistic missile alert that went out statewide. Gov. David Ige said he would seek more than $2 million from the Legislature in the short term to build emergency preparedness, with longer-term costs still to be identified.

Hi-EMA said Thursday the review for emergency responses started in 2015 is a multi-decade look at mainly preparing the state for hurricanes and tsunamis.

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