Hawaii is bracing for a powerful hurricane that forecasters say could deliver a rare direct strike on the islands.
Hurricane Lane, an intense Category 5 storm, was moving west across the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and was expected to turn north near the island chain and it’s estimated 1.4 million residents by Thursday.
A hurricane warning was issued for Hawaii’s Big Island, and hurricane watches were in effect for Oahu and Maui County.
Lane “is forecast to move dangerously close to the main Hawaiian islands as a hurricane later this week, potentially bringing damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding from heavy rainfall,” the Central Pacific Hurricane Center warned.
Forecasters predicted waves could reach 25 feet high on the south shore of Oahu, where the ocean is typically calm and tourists frequent beaches. Heavy rainfall is also expected, with some areas receiving up to 20 inches. The forecast prompted the governor’s office to sign an emergency proclamation.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell strongly urged residents and visitors to prepare.
“This storm — Hurricane Lane — is a dangerous storm, and we got to take it very, very seriously, and we’re all working together at this point so that we plan for the worse and hope for the best,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.
O'ahu is now in a Hurricane Watch. If you haven't already, please visit https://t.co/X7RgJ56vhF to sign up for emergency alerts for the latest information on Hurricane #Lane @NWSHonolulu @Oahu_DEM pic.twitter.com/RMFbl4m3Rp
— Kirk Caldwell (@MayorKirkHNL) August 22, 2018
Hurricanes are rare in Hawaii, but have been deadly in the past. The last hurricane to make landfall was Iniki in 1992, which killed six people, injured many more and caused billions of dollars in damage. Oahu, where the capital city Honolulu and the majority of the state’s population lives, has not seen a hurricane make landfall since Hawaii was granted statehood nearly six decades ago.
With Lane fast approaching, people were seen lining up at Costcos and other stores to stockpile the basics, including water, food, and toilet paper.
“It is real folks,” this caption from Judah Oschner for his photos of the line and empty shelves at a Costco in Honolulu stated.
Judah Oschner told that it took him about 30 minutes to find parking at the Costco in Honolulu when he went on Tuesday. He said he already has an emergency kit prepared because of “all the near misses,” but that he wanted to buy some more water, flashlights, and canned foods.
Hawaii News Now reporter Lynn Kawano said the Costco in Kapolei on Oahu was already out of generators.
— Lynn Kawano (@LynnKawano) August 21, 2018
Most emergency kits should have at least two weeks worth of non-perishable food, medications, a flashlight, a radio, and other survival gear. There should also be enough water for each person in the household to drink a gallon a day.
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Tom Travis said at a press conference Tuesday that “some of the risks that will be involved with Hurricane Lane include high-winds that can cause missile hazards and threat to structures, and tornadoes and lightning, and one particular issue that I’d like to emphasis is flooding.”
Residents were urged to clear drains and gutters, to bring loose objects inside, and be prepared to cover windows. Most people will need to shelter in their homes, although those who live on the coast or in flood zones should be prepared to evacuate to higher ground in the case of storm surges. Residents in older homes or on exposed ridgelines should consider evacuating in the event of high winds.
Travis said that there are not enough shelters in the state for everyone.
“We do not have enough shelters for everyone, the shelter policy should be that most citizens should remain in their homes,” said Travis. “If you are in a flood zone, then you should actively seek shelter elsewhere.”
A preparedness report produced earlier this year by state emergency officials after the infamous false missile alert said that the state did not have enough shelter space for all of its residents. While the state’s population is approximately 1.4 million people, the report said there are only 277,376 shelter spaces available for emergencies.
“We’re going to have a storm that’s moving very slowly … so it’s going to hang over the islands longer, if it continues that way, with strong winds, a lot of rain … and a lot of surf,” Caldwell said. “So we’re going to have flooding in all likely hood.”
The mayor said they would have to consider stopping bus services, closing the zoo, parks, and golf courses, as well as cancelling a surf contest in Waikiki. He added that the Emergency Operations Center will be staffed 24-hours a day.
Hawaii’s Department of Education announced that schools would be closed on the Big Island, Maui, Lanai, and Molokai until further notice.
The Hawaii Red Cross also called for hundreds of volunteers in preparation for Hurricane Lane, and urged residents to download their app for information on shelters and for resources for helping pets.
“It is much too early to confidently determine which, if any, of the main Hawaiian Islands will be directly impacted by Lane,” the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. “Even if the center of Lane were to remain offshore, it is important to remember that impacts from a hurricane can extend well away from the center.”