Douglas remained a dangerous Category 1 hurricane as it passed north of the main Hawaiian Islands on Sunday — creating daylong tension in Oahu’s closest call yet from storms of recent years.
By early evening Douglas, for the most part, had spared the islands.
“We hope that we dodged a bullet,” Gov. David Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at about 6 p.m., even as the hurricane remained at Category 1 strength with Kauai possibly still in its path. “We were fortunate in that we did not have major flooding or major dislocations,” Ige said, with Hawaii island, Maui County and Oahu apparently in the clear.
Ige said he was generally pleased with how the state responded to the threat of Hurricane Douglas.
It was a tense day in most of the state as residents waited in anticipation of the triple threat of damaging wind, rain and surf following warnings by state and county officials. At 11 a.m. a three-minute siren alerted Oahu residents a hurricane was nearing the isle, bringing the possibility of extremely dangerous wind and flooding.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials who landed in the islands for Douglas had to endure Ige’s mandatory 14-day COVID-19 quarantine and communicate via social distancing as a result, Ige said.
But the usual cadre of volunteers to staff emergency shelters did not show up in their usual numbers, he said.
“We all need to make a concerted effort to sign up volunteers and have them all trained,” Ige said. COVID-19 showed “a couple of minor gaps that were exposed,” Ige said. “This is such an uncertain time in a lot of different ways.”
Overall, however, Ige was pleased with how the people of Hawaii responded to the first major hurricane of the season.
“I do think people responded and were prepared,” Ige said. “I saw a lot of people taking the appropriate preparations.”
The National Hurricane Center in its 9 p.m. update said Douglas — which was about 70 miles east-northeast of Lihue and 75 miles north-northwest of Honolulu — with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph, was passing north of Oahu and moving west-northwest at 16 mph.
Sunday morning, Douglas passed north of Hawaii island and then drenched Maui, but without any major damage reported.
A high-surf warning was issued Sunday evening for the east-facing shores of Molokai, Oahu and Kauai, with surf expected to build rapidly to 15 to 25 feet, effective through 6 p.m. today. The hurricane warning remained in effect for parts of Kauai and Oahu.
During a live Q&A session with the Star-Advertiser on Sunday afternoon, National Weather Service science and operations officer Robert Ballard said that this was the closest he’s seen potentially destructive winds pass near the isles in the last 20 years.
Ige, along with county mayors and emergency officials, had urged all Hawaii residents, particularly those on Oahu and Kauai, to prepare for the impacts of Hurricane Douglas overnight, to take the threat seriously and to be prepared for direct as well as indirect impacts of the approaching hurricane.
“This is the closest approach that we’ve had for a hurricane probably at least in the last decade,” said Ige at a morning news conference, encouraging everyone to “hunker down.”
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said in his eight years in office, Oahu had fortunately not been hit by a hurricane.
In addition to strong wind, surge had been expected to affect roads and homes close to the water. Caldwell said the city has released a map depicting the potential flooding that could be produced from storm surge during a tropical cyclone as a general guide, and to determine whether evacuation is necessary.
Early Sunday afternoon, Caldwell said there were about 350 evacuees sheltering at Oahu’s 13 locations, including about 300 at the Hawai‘i Convention Center in Waikiki, 44 at Nanakuli and a handful of others at the other shelters.
Those going to shelters were told to bring their own face masks, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and supply kits, and officials said they should expect to undergo screening, temperature checks and maintain 6 feet of physical distancing due to COVID-19 guidelines.
The state Health Department said as of Sunday morning, 401 individuals were in isolation and 341 in quarantine due to COVID-19 or exposure to COVID-19. They were advised to shelter in place and not go to a public shelter.
At the same time, 466 visitors flew to Hawaii on Saturday, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, despite warnings of the approaching hurricane and mandatory quarantine requirements.
Ige announced Friday that he would modify quarantine rules to allow those in quarantine to obtain hurricane supplies, if necessary, if no other options were available.
Those in mandatory quarantine, however, were expected to remain in quarantine.
“Everyone who is subject to quarantine should be in their quarantine locations, and, as you know, travelers are required to quarantine in hotels or motels specifically, and so they should be sheltering in place,” Ige said Sunday afternoon.