Even if Hurricane Douglas arrives with less than a hurricane-force punch, its potential for wind, rain and ocean surges still has people worried about the damage it could cause — especially on east- facing shores of all islands, where the surf is expected to rise to 15 feet.
Dotty Kelly- Paddock, her husband and their son live on a Hauula hillside, where she worries about high winds. At the same time, Kelly-Paddock remains concerned about dozens of her neighbors who live along the ocean’s edge on Kamehameha Highway and are vulnerable to storm surge, as well as the potential flooding that could affect residents along Hauula’s six streams — especially at Pokiwai Bridge, which sometimes sees a sand buildup that clogs the stream.
“Yeah, it’s a very serious matter,” she said Saturday. “The wind is going to hit everybody the same. And a lot of residents are right next to the ocean in very low-lying grounds. We are all very much at risk.”
An 8 p.m. Saturday advisory from the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center had Douglas churning about 390 miles east-southeast of Honolulu as a Category 1 storm with 90 mph maximum sustained winds. The storm was moving at 16 mph on a west-northwest track, with hurricane-force winds extending 35 miles from its center and tropical-storm-force winds reaching out 115 miles.
Douglas was expected to pass dangerously close to or directly over the islands starting late Saturday on Hawaii island and on to Kauai through tonight, then moving on to parts of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on Monday and Tuesday, according to the hurricane center.
A hurricane warning remained in effect for Oahu, while a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning remained in effect for Hawaii and Maui counties. Kauai was under a tropical storm warning. The entire island chain is under a flash-flood watch until Monday afternoon.
With the potential for drenching rains, flash flooding and powerful winds, Douglas could still cause “quite a lot of damage” even if it breaks apart into a tropical storm, said Chris Brenchley, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
He specifically cited 2014’s Hurricane Iselle, which made landfall as a tropical storm and damaged 250 homes on Hawaii island and destroyed 11 of them. Much of the damage was caused by uprooted albizia trees that crashed into homes and fell across roads, blocking them for days.
This time, Hurricane Douglas has the potential to cut an even wider swath.
“Watching all of the bulletins, all of the islands are going to be impacted,” said Darryl Oliveira, Hawaii County’s former head of Civil Defense and its former fire chief.
In preparation for Hurricane Douglas, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans to open 13 evacuation centers at 9 a.m. today, including the Hawaii Convention Center, which Caldwell said could accommodate 1,600 people even with COVID-19 social-distancing restrictions.
But Caldwell and Gov. David Ige urged everyone to shelter in place if possible, as the safest option.
Unless sheltering in place or staying with friends or family are not possible, Caldwell called the city’s shelters “the last option.” People checking into a shelter will need a mask or face covering, have to undergo a temperature screen and comply with social- distancing requirements, he said.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino announced plans to open five shelters Saturday night and two more at 7 a.m. today.
TheBus is scheduled to curtail Oahu service at noon today and is expected to resume service at 6 a.m. Monday. City officials encouraged bus riders to stay home and limit travel only to essential trips.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines canceled all mainland and neighbor island flights scheduled for today.
And the National Park Service closed both Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii island and Haleakala National Park on Maui.
Honolulu lifeguards, meanwhile, warned people to stay out of the ocean and even away from the shoreline.
“Please don’t risk your life and the life of our first responders,” Shayne Enright, spokeswoman for the city’s Emergency Services Department, said in a statement. “If necessary, please stay home. Even the act of taking pictures along the shoreline can be extremely dangerous in times of large waves and high winds.”
The U.S. Coast Guard closed Hawaii County ports Saturday and anticipated doing the same for all of the state’s ports. The Coast Guard also warned people to stay out of the ocean and warned that Douglas could hamper its rescue capabilities.
“Coast Guard personnel and other emergency responders may not be able to evacuate or rescue those in danger until after the storm has passed,” the Coast Guard said in a statement.
Maui County officials, meanwhile, urged their residents to conserve water to minimize the impact on the sewage system, which could overflow due to flooding. Maui residents also were asked to store a gallon of drinking water per person per day, in addition to water for pets, in case water service is cut off.
Maui County’s Department of Environmental Management said people should have enough water on hand for 14 days.
Even as Hurricane Douglas continued to weaken, Robert Ballard, science and operations officer at the National Weather Service in Honolulu, warned of its dangers.
“It will do quite a bit of damage,” Ballard said.
He listed threats that include life-threatening and destructive surf, damaging wave action and surge, and heavy rainfall that could lead to flash flooding.
Even if Douglas brings winds below a 74 mph Category 1 hurricane, Ballard said, “You do not want to be out in tropical-storm- force winds. … You need to be hunkered down.”
Ige and Caldwell urged everyone to look out for one another.
“When we act together we can be a resilient and responsive community,” Ige said, adding that he’s always inspired by “neighbors helping neighbors.”
As a practical matter, Caldwell said: “Tie down everything so it isn’t blown away.”
Also on Saturday, President Donald Trump declared that an emergency exists for Hawaii and ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local responses resulting from Hurricane Douglas.
Trump’s declaration authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster relief efforts and provide appropriate assistance for all counties.
Hawaii County has had plenty of experience with incoming hurricanes that landed with less than hurricane-force winds, rain and surf.
Jay Turkovsky of Leilani Estates had both his primary and back-up generators gassed up on Saturday with enough fuel to last half a week, along with his chainsaw in case he needed to break down any fallen trees.
Turkovsky was planning to spend the rest of Saturday securing anything that could be sent airborne by Douglas.
Out in the Puna District — especially after suffering through 2018’s Kilauea eruption, Turkovsky said — “You get used to a certain amount of self-sufficiency.”
On Oahu’s Windward side in Kahaluu, Arthur Machado hoped he had done enough to shore up his home, including the addition of hurricane clips for his roof and storm-proofing for his windows.
“It’s not too bad right now,” Machado said before the brunt of Douglas arrived. “People are organizing and taking care of their own homes.”
But Machado was still bracing for a triple whammy of damaging winds, rains and storm surge. Asked which threat from Douglas he feared the most, Machado did not hesitate: “All three,” he said.