Authorities Prepare for Flossie’s Arrival
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by Dave Smith
County, state and federal authorities were gearing up tonight in anticipation of the arrival of Tropical Storm Flossie Monday morning.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said tonight the storm continues to bear down on the state.
At 8 p.m., the storm was located about 265 miles east of Hilo with sustained wind speeds of 60 mph and higher gusts, although forecasters were still predicting some weakening within the next 48 hours.
The center said tropical storm force winds of at least 39 mph were extending up to 160 miles outward.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said Flossie is expected to make landfall with high winds and heavy rain on the Big Island around 6 a.m. Monday.
However, that may be preceded by high surf and a storm surge that could impact east-facing shores of the island beginning tonight, the agency said in a statement issued at 6:43 p.m.
The statement said shelters will be open by 4 a.m. Monday at the following locations: Pahoa Community Center, Aunty Sally’s Luau Hale, Laupahoehoe Charter School, Honokaa Sports Complex, Waimea Community Center, Hisaoka Gym in North Kohala, Mt. View School, Pahala Community Center and the West Hawaii Civic Center.
Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi today declared a state of emergency for the island and also directed all non-essential county employees to remain home Monday. He also encouraged the private sector to do the same.
“In an effort to insure the safety of and reduce the risk to employees, employers are encouraged to limit staffing to essential employees only,” the Civil Defense statement said.
The state of emergency was in effect from 1 p.m. today until further notice.
Meanwhile, Gov. Neil Abercrombie tonight also issued an emergency proclamation in advance of Flossie’s arrival.
The declaration was made to ensure that “all agencies have full powers necessary to best protect and serve the people of Hawaii,” the governor’s office said in a statement issued shortly before 6 p.m.
It said the proclamation is designed to coordinate emergency response between various government agencies and provides access, if needed, to the National Guard as well as disaster funds for staff overtime and procurement of supplies.
The Coast Guard ordered the closing of ports in Hilo and Kawaihae on the Big Island as well as Kahului on Maui.
“All cargo operations in these ports will be secured by 6 a.m. Monday,” the Coast Guard said tonight in a press release.
According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, high surf is expected to peak near 11 a.m. Monday on affected shores of the Big Island and Maui.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said tonight the park will remain open Monday but with minimal services, although a variety of areas were closed as of tonight until the storm passes.
Those areas included all backcountry and coastal areas, various other campsites, Mauna Loa Strip Road and Chain of Craters Road below the Devastation Trail parking lot.
Ferracane said the park’s visitor center would be open Monday but with reduced staffing.
Hawaii Electric Light Company said its offices would be closed Monday but its trouble line would remain in operation. It said customers may call 969-6666 to report power outages and downed power lines.
The company warned the public not to touch fallen or low hanging power lines or anything with which they may be in contact.
“A seemingly harmless wire may still be energized,” the company said in a press release Sunday night. “Stay clear of puddles where downed lines may have landed.”
Connections Charter School also announced it would be closed on Monday.