Storm preparation kicked into high gear across the state Tuesday as Hurricane Lane made its anticipated turn toward the islands.
State and county officials said they were bracing for damaging wind, power outages, flooding rain and dangerous surf as the National Weather Service called a hurricane warning for Hawaii island and a hurricane watch for Oahu, joining the islands of Maui County.
A hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the tropical storm-force winds, while a watch is issued 48 hours in advance.
Related photo galleries:
Gov. David Ige and the county mayors signed emergency proclamations Tuesday allowing government officials to respond with greater speed.
“This storm, this Hurricane Lane, is a dangerous storm, and we’ve got to take it very, very seriously,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a state Capitol news conference. “We’re all working together to make sure we plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
On Tuesday, Lane, a Category 5 hurricane packing 160-mph winds and traveling at 9 mph, began moving into a region where changing atmospheric conditions will allow the cyclone to gain latitude. At 11 p.m. the hurricane was about 350 miles south-southeast of Kailua-Kona and about 505 miles south-southeast of Honolulu. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said Lane’s current forecast track will bring its center very close to or over the Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday.
Lane is expected to weaken in intensity under increasing vertical wind shear and possible interaction with the mountainous terrain of the islands, forecasters said.
But it could still generate 75- to 110-mph wind, 10 to 16 inches of rain, 10- to 15-foot surf and four feet of storm surge.
“Hurricane Lane is a very serious storm that has potential to do damage and cause harm. We must be as prepared as we can,” said Tom Travis, administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
Travis said HI-EMA’s emergency command center was going to be activated Tuesday night.
Elsewhere, the state Department of Education and the University of Hawaii canceled classes for today and until further notice on Maui and the Big Island.
Ige granted administrative leave for nonessential state employees in Hawaii and Maui counties, and state offices on the Big Island and Maui will be closed today, Thursday and Friday.
Many stores on Oahu were overrun with customers seeking water, toilet paper and other items in demand during large storms. Shelves were cleared and lines were long.
Ige said his emergency proclamation will allow the state to be proactive by prepositioning state assets to support county emergency responders.
Among other things, it will activate the state’s Major Disaster Fund and cut through red tape to allow for a faster storm response.
Ige said the Federal Emergency Management Agency also has been proactive in placing food, water and emergency equipment in counties statewide.
Ige said he anticipates activating the National Guard, if necessary, and working with the counties to help homeless people move into shelters.
He urged residents to be prepared with a two-week supply of food and water and to complete a family evacuation plan, and to follow the direction of county civil defense agencies and responders.
Officials said they were still evaluating which shelters to open.
Travis acknowledged there’s not enough shelter space for everyone. The official policy, he said, is for those who are not in a flood zone to generally remain in their homes. Those who are in a flood zone should seek shelter with someone who is not in a flood zone or in one of the public shelters.
Caldwell said the city will activate its command center today at 6 a.m. and will be working around the clock until Lane passes.
The city will not be issuing any additional camping permits for this weekend, he said, and will consider revoking current permits if necessary.
Additionally, the city is looking to suspend any number of services during the storm, including bus service and trash pickup.
“We don’t want those bins out in the road blowing around in this strong wind,” the mayor said.
The zoo, golf courses, parks and other events could be shut down by the storm, he added.
The city will be looking to shelter homeless and to use city buses to help with the effort, Caldwell said.
Caldwell said Oahu hasn’t been tested by a hurricane in a long time.
“What if the entire island is impacted?” he said. “That is a test we may have to face, and I think we are prepared to respond to it.”
Ige said the ongoing changes in Hurricane Lane’s path and intensity have made it different from so many other storms that have approached the islands in recent years.
Hurricane Hector, the last cyclone to enter the Central Pacific, traveled in a virtual line past Hawaii to the south as forecasters predicted.
“This is the exact opposite,” Ige said. “The forecast has changed all over the map. The cone of uncertainty is wider than I’ve ever seen it.”
He encourage residents to pay attention to authorities.
“We don’t know where this storm will hit,” he said. “Everyone should be prepared.”