KAILUA-KONA — West Hawaii could begin to feel the effects of Hurricane Lane as early as this evening as the powerful storm closes in on the state.
Though the storm’s center is expected to remain offshore, officials are urging residents islandwide to be prepared as Lane approaches the Hawaiian Islands. A hurricane warning issued Tuesday evening remains in effect for Hawaii County. Maui and Oahu were added to the warning area today. A hurricane watch is in effect for Kauai.
“I ask that we all prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said Tuesday evening. The county will open an emergency operations command center today at the West Hawaii Civic Center. All county offices are scheduled to be open today.
As of 8 a.m. today, Lane had weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane circulating 155 mph winds some 315 miles south of Kailua-Kona and 255 miles south of South Point, according to Honolulu-based Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecasters. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the center of Lane and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 140 miles.
The storm was headed west-northwest at 8 mph, however, forecasters expect a turn toward the northwest on Wednesday, followed by a turn to the north-northwest on Thursday.
“On the forecast track, the center of Lane will move very close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday,” forecasters said.
According to data provided by the center, by this evening, the storm’s center is expected to be about 250 miles south of Kailua-Kona and 200 miles south of South Point.
Gavin Shigesato, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said Tuesday that tropical storm conditions are possible beginning tonight, with hurricane conditions possible on Thursday.
“This storm is fairly strong, even if the eye itself, the center of the hurricane, is offshore, there’s still quite a lot of effects,” he said.
Current forecast models call for 25-35 mph winds with gusts reaching 55 mph for leeward areas of Hawaii Island from North Kona to about Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. The potential remains for hurricane-force winds, those greater than 74 mph, to impact the area. Rainfall accumulations are expected to be around 4 to 8 inches with locally higher amounts, he said.
Southern and southeastern areas of the island can also expect similar wind conditions as the leeward areas, however, rainfall could total more than 2 feet in areas of Ka‘u.
South Kohala is forecast to see 20-30 mph winds with gusts reaching up to 45 mph. Hurricane-force winds are not expected though there is potential for winds to reach up to 73 mph. Two to 4 inches of rain, with locally higher amounts, can be expected.
For areas of North Kohala and Hamakua, forecasters are expecting 20-30 mph winds with gusts to 45 mph. Hurricane-force winds are not expected though there is potential for winds to reach up to 73 mph. Some 18-24 inches, with locally higher amounts, could fall as the storm passes.
“Please take this threat seriously and hopefully when this is over you can say, ‘ha, we did all that for nothing,’” Kim said.
A flash flood watch goes into effect this morning for the entire state. Forecasters cautioned that the most torrential rainfall can be expected as Lane makes its closest approach and it could lead to major flash flooding, landslides and mudslides. Tornadoes and large waterspouts will also be possible, mainly along and to the right of the track of the hurricane.
A high surf warning is also in effect until 6 a.m. Friday for south-facing shores of Hawaii Island. Wave heights of 15 to 25 feet are forecast with the largest surf expected along the island’s southern and the southeastern coasts. A storm surge of up to 4 feet in anticipated.
Forecasters warned of extreme impacts, including “ocean water surging and sweeping over beaches, coastal benches, lava flows, and roadways, creating the potential for significant damage to coastal properties and infrastructure, including roadways. Coastal evacuations and road closures are possible. Large breaking waves may affect harbor entrances and channels with significant damage possible to docks, piers, ramps, and boats”
With the storm’s impending arrival, Judy Donovan, spokeswoman for Kona Community and Kohala hospitals, said staff has been working to ensure both facilities are ready should people need care. In the event of a power failure, the hospital’s 1,500 kilowatt generator can operate all hospital buildings and equipment for eight to 10 days.
“The hospital is fully prepared to handle this storm,” Donovan said. “We have the two weeks supply of everything on hand — food, water, medication, clinical labs for blood needs, and we can take care of any of the emergencies that would arise.”
She cautioned, however, that the hospital is not an evacuation site.
“We’re not a sheltering place for the community,” she said, explaining that during the January false missile alert a lot of people sought refuge at the facility. “We did shelter them in the cafeteria because it was short-lived (the alert), but we want to make sure the community doesn’t seek shelter in the hospital because we could be handling emergency needs.”
The opening evacuation centers, if necessary, will be announced today, Kim said.
Hawaiian Electric Companies, parent company of Hawaii Electric Light Co., said it is assigning and pre-positioning workers and equipment. The utility is also in contact with the Western Regional Mutual Assistance Group and other utility industry organizations ready to provide personnel and equipment as needed.
“The Hawaiian Electric Companies will make every effort to keep the power on but the electric grids are not hurricane-proof,” said Ron Cox, senior vice president of operations. “There will be outages if the islands are hit by powerful winds, torrential rain, and flooding. Once the storm has passed and it is safe for our crews to begin restoration, we will work as quickly and safely as possible to restore power.”
Also Tuesday, Gov. David Ige and Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim signed emergency proclamations ahead of the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Lane. The state proclamation declares all counties in the state disaster areas and authorizes the expenditure of state monies for the “speedy and efficient relief of damages, losses and suffering resulting from Hurricane Lane.”
“This emergency proclamation allows us to line up services and necessary resources prior to the event so that we can keep our communities safe and running as efficiently as possible,” said Ige.
Closures announced ahead of Hurricane Lane’s arrival:
– All public schools and DOE offices in Hawaii and Maui counties will be closed today until further notice, according to the state Department of Education. Parents with pupils attending public charter and private schools are urged to contact their school for closure information.
– Hawaii County officials have closed all beach parks, from South Point to North Kohala, until further notice. All pavilion and camping permits have been canceled. South Point Road, from its junction with Kamaoa Road to South Point, is closed to all traffic. All County of Hawaii offices will be open today during normal business hours, however.
– All state parks will close Thursday morning, the Department of Land and Natural Resources said.
– All public libraries will also be closed today. In addition, all library programs statewide scheduled from today to Sunday were canceled.
– State offices on the Big Island and Maui will be closed today through Friday.
– Courthouses on the Big Island will be closed today through Friday.
– All University of Hawaii schools on the Big Island also will be closed today until further notice.
– The Kahuku unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be closed today and Thursday. All programs are canceled.