Big Island treating Daniel as real deal
|||Voyaging canoe Hokule'a forced to change itinerary|
The storm that was Hurricane Daniel weakened yesterday to a tropical depression, but the state's emergency response agencies continued preparations for the possibility of flooding on the Big Island — and using the event as a statewide preparedness exercise.
"It's almost totally dissipated, but there's still a lot of moisture in it," said Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. "It could be like Kenneth last year, when we got quite a bit of rain and some flooding." Hurricane Kenneth had dissipated to a tropical depression when it reached the Big Island on Sept. 30, but it still caused flash floods on several islands.
"We're just keeping an eye on this system, a real close watch on it," said Clifford Ikeda, plans and operations chief for Kaua'i Civil Defense. On Kaua'i, as throughout the state, government agencies, emergency shelter managers, utilities and other crisis response personnel were being updated regularly by the local Civil Defense offices.
The Big Island could see significant rainfall from Daniel starting late morning Friday. State highway crews positioned equipment around the island so that the right gear will be available where needed, arranged for spare fuel and checked light stands in the event night work is required, said Stanley Tomura, district highways engineer with the state Department of Transportation.
Along county roads, crews cleared drains and streams, checked emergency equipment and counted the number of sandbags on hand in each district, said county public works chief Bruce McClure.
"There are some places historically that always need it," said Troy Kindred, administrator for Hawai'i County Civil Defense.
SANDBAGS IN DEMAND
Sandbags also were on the minds of O'ahu residents still smarting from floods in February and March — even after word spread that Daniel was weakening.
Yesterday, City Mill and Ace Hardware in Kaimuki reported an increase in sandbag sales.
Vicki Lebowitz, store manager of City Mill in Kaimuki, said sales of batteries, flashlights, plywood and duct tape also were strong.
"It's always good to stock up," said Lebowitz. "Especially since we saw the 42 days of straight rain."
City Mill has pulled hurricane supply items to the front of their store to make shopping easier for customers. Among them: ponchos, tarps, duct tape, batteries, flashlights, rope, first-aid kits and heavy-duty totes.
For the most part, however, Ace Hardware-Kaimuki store manager Stephanie Thomas said, most people "aren't really making a big deal of it."
Managers of other stores including Don Quijote (formerly Daiei), Safeway and Home Depot said they haven't seen a huge influx of people preparing for the hurricane.
NOT TAKING CHANCES
But some were playing it safe.
Yuriko Uyemura, 76, of Kaimuki, said she doesn't want to take any chances and is preparing for the worst. Uyemura shopped for a heavy-duty flashlight and propane at City Mill yesterday.
"I'm not nervous, it's more the Big Island," Uyemura said. "I'm just getting ready. We haven't had (a hurricane) hit for several years. This might be the year."
That is just the message Civil Defense officials want to get out.
"We're using this as an opportunity to advise our residents that, while this one may go by us, it's a matter of when, not if," a major storm will hit, said Gen Iinuma, administrator of Maui Civil Defense.
Kindred and Iinuma said they would actually appreciate a little rainfall to help their islands with significant drought conditions.
"Rain is always welcome, as long as it doesn't come all at once," Kindred said.
JUST IN CASE
There have been cases in the past when storms have strengthened and created severe problems after appearing to have died, said Ed Teixeira, deputy director of state Civil Defense.
"We're staying on a 24-hour alert, and we'll stay that way until that entire system moves away. For us, it ain't over till it's over," Teixeira said.
The National Weather Service downgraded Daniel from a hurricane to a tropical storm Monday night, and from a tropical storm to a tropical depression yesterday afternoon. It was about 800 miles away and moving toward the Big Island at about 5 mph late yesterday afternoon, but was expected to speed up to 12 mph by today.
The storm has sustained winds of about 35 mph with stronger gusts.
Weyman said that while Daniel's remnants will cross the Big Island, they will remain as much as 100 miles south of the other islands in the chain. Those islands could get gustier trade winds and increased trade-wind showers, but are unlikely to see any direct rainfall from the system, he said.
Hurricane hunter aircraft that had been scheduled to fly to Hawai'i to monitor the storm were called back as Daniel weakened with unexpected speed.