Rare hurricane warning as Hawaii braces for major storm

HONOLULU, Aug 23, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Residents of Hawaii were bracing for a
rare landfall by a powerful hurricane as they stocked up on water, food and
emergency supplies.

Hurricane Lane, which weakened slightly to a category 4 storm overnight,
is packing 155-mile (250-kilometre) -per-hour winds and was expected to reach
the archipelago’s Big Island by nightfall Wednesday.

President Donald Trump urged residents to prepare for the storm, which was
expected to bring torrential rains, high winds and dangerous surf.

“Everyone in the path of #HurricaneLane please prepare yourselves, heed
the advice of State and local officials, and follow @NWSHonolulu for updates.
Be safe!” he tweeted.

The National Weather Service said a hurricane warning has been issued for
Maui County and Hawaii County while a hurricane watch was in effect in Kauai
and Oahu.

“The center of Lane will track dangerously close to the Hawaiian Islands
from Thursday through Saturday,” it said.

It added that though Lane is forecast to weaken in the next 48 hours it
will remain a dangerous hurricane as it nears the Hawaiian Islands.

“Lane is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches
(250 to 380 millimetres) with isolated amounts greater than 20 inches over
the Hawaiian Islands,” the NWS said.

It added that regardless of the exact track of the storm, the state should
brace for the potentially life-threatening impacts.

– Bracing for the worst –

“It’s not a question of whether they’re going to be hit or not,” Brock
Long, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) told a press
briefing. “They’re going to see impacts from this storm.”

He said the priority at this point was to ensure residents were prepared
for the storm.

“Right now the priority that we have is life safety,” he said. “We are
asking citizens to proactively heed all of the warning order information
coming from the governor and the local county emergency management agencies
within the state.”

Hurricanes rarely make landfall in Hawaii and the last major storm to
strike the state was nearly three decades ago, when Hurricane Iniki barrelled
into the island of Kauai, leaving six people dead and causing billions of
dollars in damage.

In preparation for the latest storm, state officials have closed schools
and public offices in the counties affected while residents rushed to stores
to stock up on water, food and other supplies. Many were also boarding up
their houses.

Governor David Ige on Tuesday declared a state of emergency on Big Island
to help provide relief for damage from the hurricane.

“Hurricane Lane is not a well-behaved hurricane,” he said in a statement.
“I’ve not seen such dramatic changes in the forecast track as I’ve seen with
this storm.

“I urge our residents and visitors to take this threat seriously and
prepare for a significant impact.”

FEMA associate administrator Jeff Byard said authorities were bracing for
the worst, stocking up on emergency food and water and readying shelters.

“We have emergency food in the form of MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) and water
that are currently on all four counties of the state,” he said.

“And we’re also working with the private sector, with the grocery
retailers, to make sure that we are working in a coordinated fashion to
provide food for a number of days should we lose power in a catastrophic
manner.”

He said FEMA was also working with utility companies to co-ordinate the
repair of any damaged power infrastructure.

Ige also urged President Donald Trump to declare a federal state emergency
and approve immediate US federal military help.

Hawaii “requires immediate support from Department of Defense assets for
strategic airlift between the islands,” Ige said

And Hawaii “anticipates the need for immediate access to federal resources
for search and rescue, mass care and sheltering commodities, and temporary
power generation,” he warned.

Meanwhile the US Navy said some of its ships and submarines based in
Hawaii had begun to deploy to avoid getting caught in the storm.

“Based on the current track of the storm, we made the decision to begin to
sortie the Pearl Harbor-based ships,” said Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of
the Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. “This allows the ships enough time to
transit safely out of the path of the storm.”