Waiting game: Officials stay vigilant tracking potential hurricane impacts for West Hawaii

  • Public Works Deputy Director Merrick Nishimoto points to inundation zone maps in the Hurricane Lane Emergency Operation Center at the West Hawaii Civic Center Thursday afternoon. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Public Works Deputy Director Merrick Nishimoto points to a hurricane tracking map in the Emergency Operation Center at the West Hawaii Civic Center Thursday afternoon. (Photos by Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

  • Representatives from various county departments man the Emergency Operation Center at the West Hawaii Civic Center Thursday afternoon.

KAILUA-KONA — As Hurricane Lane wreaked havoc in East Hawaii throughout the day Thursday, West Hawaii residents enjoyed light rain, overcast skies, with no major winds.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Hurricane Lane had downgraded, and the National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for Hawaii County. Throughout the day, county crews remained vigilant in watching weather patterns and examining vulnerable flooding areas along the coastline.

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“We have people driving around and doing reconnaissance on conditions,” said Deputy Director of Public Works Merrick Nishimoto Thursday afternoon.

Nishimoto added that county employees stopped and talked to residents who live in shoreline homes making sure they are aware of the weather conditions and that shelters are available.

The county established a forward operating base at the West Hawaii Civic Center as a central location for resources where authorities can assess immediate needs.

“The message we want to give everyone is, the event isn’t over,” Nishimoto said from the base Thursday.

Nishimoto said a lot of the businesses along Alii Drive were proactive and boarded up and closed early on Thursday.

“It’s good to see people are taking this seriously,” he said.

Inside the base, there were various groups working on different things: mass care, emergency management communication and public safety search and rescue.

Lining the walls of the room were TV screens that tracked the path of Hurricane Lane, a whiteboard listed closures and several westside coastline maps showing tsunami inundation.

Nishimoto said the hurricane could create potential storm surges, which is a similar event to tsunami inundation where water comes over the shoreline. Officials are looking at potential storm surges from Kawaihae to Hookena.

Nishimoto added that the county is mobilizing 19 National Guard members just in case they are needed.

“We got to be hyper vigilant,” he said. “It’s easy to be lulled into complacency.”

As Hurricane Lane moved closer to Hawaii Island Wednesday, several shelters opened up. According to Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency, 23 people are currently utilizing the shelters as of Thursday evening.

Shelters are located at:

• Waiakea High School, 155 W. Kawili St., Hilo

• Hookena Elementary School, 86-4355 Mamalahoa Highway, Captain Cook

• Hisaoka Gym, 54-382 Kamehameha Park Road, Kapaau (Pet friendly)

• Kealakehe High School, 74-5000 Puohulihuli St., Kailua-Kona (Pet friendly)

• Waikoloa Elementary &Middle School, 68-1730 Hooko St., Waikoloa Village

• Konawaena High School Gym, 81-1043 Konawaena School Road, Kealakekua

Food is not provided at the shelters. County officials ask that people bring their own pillows and blankets if possible. However, the shelter is open to everyone with or without these items.

The Hawaii State Department of Health is advising the public to stay out of streams, coastal, and standing waters that are contaminated by storm water. Storm water may contain harmful micro-organisms from overflowing cesspools or septic tanks as well as animal waste washed into streams and storm drains.

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Additionally, officials with Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the hurricane should have no significant effect on the eruption that has occurred in the Puna area aside from minor rock falls at the summit and increased steaming from Pu‘u O‘o and the LERZ vents.

“Whiteout conditions could occur on the new lava field due to steam produced by heavy rain falling on still-hot lava flows,” HVO reports.

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