Gov. David Ige reminded Hawaii residents to be prepared as the peak of hurricane season arrives and as Tropical Storm Douglas, which was expected to strengthen into a hurricane by today, heads toward Hawaii.
In a conversation livestreamed via Facebook on Tuesday afternoon featuring Luke Meyers, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator, Ige said hand sanitizer, wipes and masks should be added to hurricane supply kits due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“I just want to remind everyone that even though we are in the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic, this is hurricane season and we need to be prepared,” said Ige. “Check on your emergency kit and make sure you do have 14 days of supplies.”
The hurricane season for the Central Pacific, where Hawaii is located, is from June 1 to Nov. 30, although the peak usually occurs from August to September, according to Meyers.
Two to six tropical cyclones are expected in the Central Pacific this season.
Each county takes the lead in operating emergency shelters during disasters such as hurricanes, often with the support of nonprofits like the Red Cross, said Meyers. Although most locations will remain the same this year, they will have limited capacity in order to comply with physical distancing guidelines.
There also will be temperature checks and screening before one is able to enter an emergency shelter, he said.
Meyers said HI-EMA has had conversations on whether hotel rooms could provide shelter during a hurricane-pandemic emergency, but that nothing formal has yet been established.
The coronavirus pandemic adds strain to the emergency response because of ongoing challenges to the state economy that have been ongoing for months, Meyers acknowledged, in addition to emotional stress for residents.
However, he said the state is just as prepared for a hurricane as it was before the pandemic.
The preparation required is similar to past years.
Meyers said the six calls to action including knowing the hazards of where you live, work and play; signing up for necessary alerts and communications; and having an emergency plan in place plus an adequate supply kit. Additionally, residents should consider getting hurricane or flood insurance for properties and install hurricane clips or shutters.
One of the major lessons learned from Hurricane Lane, Ige said, is that the state needs to prepare in advance for port closures, which potentially can affect the supply chain.
The state still recommends that every family and individual have a written plan detailing actions to take during an emergency.
The two-week supply kit should include adequate water (1 gallon per person per day), nonperishable food, a first-aid kit, a flashlight, extra batteries, toilet paper and important documents, among other items. A “go bag” also should be ready for each family member, including pets.
The governor’s reminder echoed that of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, who also urged Oahu residents to be prepared with two-week hurricane supply kits.
“We need to be ready,” Caldwell said. “We’re in hurricane season, and if we have to evacuate, we need to find shelter space sufficient to handle folks who are going to move into shelters, hopefully, with their COVID-19 kits of hand sanitizers and face coverings and everything else.”
Jennifer Walter, Emergency Management deputy director, said her agency has been looking for new places to serve as shelters. Emergency Management is also working with the state Health Department and Red Cross to come up with guidelines for the use of personal protective equipment and screening for those entering shelters, as well as where those who are symptomatic can be isolated.
The National Hurricane Center’s five-day forecast has Douglas entering the Central Pacific on Friday as a hurricane but weakening to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph by early Sunday, about 249 miles east-southeast of Hawaii island.
At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Tropical Storm Douglas was about 1,955 miles east of Hilo, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.
Douglas was moving west at about 14 mph and was expected to turn to the west- northwest late Wednesday through Saturday. Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 80 miles from the center.
More information on preparing for hurricanes is available at getreadyhawaii.gov.
Star-Advertiser reporter Gordon Pang contributed to this report.