Hurricane Douglas was 440 miles (705 kilometres) east of Hilo early Saturday, July 25, 2020 (The Associated Press)

Hurricane threatens Hawaii with surf, winds, flooding

Hurricane Douglas was 440 miles (705 kilometres) east of Hilo early Saturday

Hawaii geared up on Saturday to face a hurricane that threatened to pummel the islands with dangerous surf, strong winds and flash floods even as residents grappled with escalating numbers of coronavirus cases.

Powerful storms are familiar to many in Hawaii who have spent the past several summers preparing for tropical cyclones. But the pandemic adds a new twist.

Luke Meyers, the administrator of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, urged people get ready by learning about the hazards where they live.

“We know that things are going to get wet, things are going to blow and things are going to slide,” Meyers said.

Hurricane Douglas was 440 miles (705 kilometres) east of Hilo early Saturday It was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 kph), making it a Category 2 hurricane.

The National Weather Service forecasts Douglas will weaken as it passes over cooler waters and encounters wind shear closer to the Hawaiian Islands. Meteorologists predict it will be near-hurricane strength as it nears the Hawaiian Islands Saturday and Sunday.

“The current path of Hurricane Douglas is going to be really close to the islands and it may make landfall,” National Weather Service meteorologist Vanessa Almanza said Saturday. “So at this moment, we still don’t know if there’s going to be a direct hit. Either way, impacts will be felt.”

The coronavirus was complicating preparations for the American Red Cross, which operates emergency shelters on behalf of local governments.

Many volunteers who normally staff the shelters are staying home because they are older or have pre-existing health conditions that put them at higher risk of getting severely sick if infected by the virus.

At the same time, each shelter will have less capacity because of the physical distancing requirements to prevent the spread of the disease, and more shelters (and workers) will be needed to accommodate people.

Shelters will need 60 square feet (6 square meters) per person or family instead of the 10 square feet (1 square meter) per person needed in the past.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said his county won’t open as many shelters for Douglas as a result of the staffing situation. But he still expects to have enough room for those who need to evacuate because there are so few tourists visiting during the pandemic. Travellers are normally some of the biggest users of Maui’s shelters during hurricanes.

The CEO of the Pacific Islands region of the American Red Cross was understanding of those uncomfortable about volunteering during the pandemic. Diane Peters-Nguyen put out a call for others who might be able to help.

“We do ask people to think about that and take care of themselves and their family first. But if they’re able, we really appreciate those that can, to respond,” she said.

Hawaii has some of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the nation, but COVID-19 numbers have been rising in recent weeks. On Thursday and Friday, the state reported 55 and 60 new confirmed cases, both of which were record highs.

At Pearl Harbor, the Navy began moving ships and submarines out to sea where they will stay until the threat from the storm subsides. The Navy will either secure its aircraft in hangars or fly them to other airfields.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled all Sunday flights and some Saturday flights between Honolulu and the other islands.

Hawaii is used to stocking up on food and other essentials to ride out hurricanes. Yet in one sense it is ill-prepared for the storms because so many of Hawaii’s single-family homes are older structures built before building codes were changed in the 1990s to take account of hurricane hazards.

A 2015 state report warned that these homes “will be vulnerable to structural collapse under a hurricane’s high wind pressures and wind-borne debris” unless they have been retrofitted.

Hawaii has been spared the worst in recent years as major hurricanes either weakened as they approached or skirted the main islands all together.

In 2018, Hurricane Lane came toward the state as a Category 5 storm and dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the Big Island, which is mostly rural. Forecasts had called for Lane to slam into Honolulu but strong wind shear largely broke up the storm just south of the state’s biggest city.

Hurricane Iniki made landfall on Kauai as a Category 4 hurricane in 1992. More than 41% of the island’s homes were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Hawaiihurricane

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Brent Carver: A legend of stage, screen and TV

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

The great Brent Carver has passed away

Carver, one of Canada’s greatest actors, has passed away at home in Cranbrook

History Centre launches walking tours of historic downtown Cranbrook

The Cranbrook History Centre is about to begin a series of Guided… Continue reading

Metal detector rings true for Cranbrook couple

A Cranbrook couple went looking for a missing ring after reading a plea on Facebook

Kootenay doctor among 82 physicians, dentists calling on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

371 British Columbians battling COVID-19, health officials confirm

Thursday (Aug. 6) saw a second straight day of nearly 50 new confirmed cases

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Canada plans $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs on U.S. in aluminium dispute

The new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement that replaced NAFTA went into force on July 1

Canada ‘profoundly concerned’ over China death sentence for citizen in drug case

Police later confiscated more than 120 kilograms of the drug from Xu Weihong’s home

Answers to 5 common questions facing families for the COVID-19 school year

COVID-19 protocols are likely to vary even more at the school board level, and even and school-to-school.

Smoker Farms bringing craft-style cannabis to Beaverdell

Husband-wife team growing small-scale cultivations of marijuana

Visitors and non-residents entering closed remote B.C. First Nation’s territories

With limited resources, they say they don’t have any authority or power to enforce the closures

UBC loses appeal on Fisheries Act convictions

BC Supreme Court upholds order to pay $1.55-million fine

Most Read