Storm Daniel nears Hawai'i's doorstep
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer
By Jan TenBruggencate
Tropical Storm Daniel, the first of the season to enter Hawaiian waters, is on track to batter all the Islands from Thursday night through midday Saturday.
Emergency managers statewide urged residents to update their family emergency plans and to stay alert to the storm's progress.
"It could help save your family if it does hit," said Jim Weyman, director of the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Daniel, with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph at 11 p.m. yesterday, was downgraded yesterday from a hurricane to a tropical storm.
Its predicted track takes it directly over the Big Island, which weather forecaster Norman Hui said could see a maximum of 10 inches of rain starting after midnight Friday morning and sustained winds at close to 60 mph. That might be enough to cause flooding or damage property.
"It's a little too soon to know what effect this will have on our island, but this is the first storm of the season, and we really need to get people on board on emergency preparedness," said Troy Kindred, Hawai'i County civil defense administrator.
Big Island stores reported no runs on emergency supplies yesterday, but Civil Defense officials statewide urged residents to update their emergency supplies and review family disaster plans.
Hui said the center of the storm is now expected to pass south of the other islands, but even at the fringe of the tropical storm, O'ahu could experience sustained winds of 45 mph with gusts to as much as 50 or 60 mph late Friday. If a rain band crosses the island, Honolulu could have 4 to 6 inches of rain, and up to as much as 10 inches, he said.
"This is coming right at us. I'm an eternal optimist — I'm hoping this thing will not materialize — but we're actively planning for it," said Bill Balfour, O'ahu Civil Defense acting administrator.
AIRCRAFT TO HELP OUT
National Weather Service forecasters expect to improve the accuracy of their storm predictions starting tomorrow, when a flock of specialized aircraft will arrive in the Islands to track Tropical Storm Daniel. Three Air Force Reserve C130 hurricane hunter aircraft are on their way from the Mainland, and a NOAA Gulfstream-4 jet will fly in to collect data at high elevation around the storm.
"All that information will help improve our models" that predict storm behavior, Weyman said.
American Red Cross shelter managers have been in discussions since late last week with Civil Defense and state Department of Education officials statewide on what shelters to open, if necessary, said Maria Lutz, the director of disaster services for the Red Cross in Hawai'i. Education officials are involved because most shelters are in school buildings.
Lutz said she expects the public to begin actively preparing for the storm as publicity ramped up overnight, and as the storm's path becomes more clear in National Weather Service advisories.
"People will start thinking, 'Maybe I'd better start shopping,'" she said. As storms approach, Hawai'i stores often get runs on items like rice, batteries and toilet paper.
Daniel weakened overnight and was between 600 and 700 miles east of Hilo. By Thursday, sustained winds are expected to have dropped to less than 60 mph with higher gusts. It was expected to reach the Big Island between midnight and dawn Friday, and then pass south of the other islands but close enough that all islands may experience strong winds.
Hui said the storm is moving fast enough that surf caused by the system should reach the Islands about the same time the storm does. Bands of rain could extend north far enough to drop significant rainfall over populated areas, Hui said.
HAVE DISASTER KITS
State Civil Defense released a statement asking residents to "have disaster kits that they can take to shelters, to stock up on nonperishable food and water at home in the event utilities lines are down following a storm, to have fresh batteries for the portable radios they will need for emergency information, and to take other steps to make themselves 'storm ready.'"
Detailed lists of what items should be in a family emergency kit are found in the front pages of telephone books.
Civil Defense authorities on all islands held emergency meetings yesterday, including teleconferenced sessions that linked all the islands, their utility companies and the National Weather Service. The state Civil Defense headquarters has been placed on 24-hour alert, and all islands were expected to do the same as the storm approached.
Reach Jan TenBruggencate at firstname.lastname@example.org.