East Hawaii News

State, County Civil Defense Conducting Hurricane Exercise

June 5, 2013, 1:18 PM HST
* Updated June 5, 1:20 PM
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State and county civil defense officials today are continuing an annual drill designed to test the governments’ ability to respond to the threat of a hurricane in Hawaii waters.

Makani Pahili 2013 involves a mock exercise coordinated between State Civil Defense, which is sponsoring the effort, and county civil defense offices.

On the Big Island, it involved activation today of an Emergency Operations Center or EOC at the Hilo civil defense headquarters, with the help of an emergency  communication system provided by the Hawaii National Guard.

This year’s week-long drill involves a simulated hurricane passing through the state on a southeast-to-northeast track.

The scenario called for the storm to be at its peak with wind speeds of 115 knots – making it a category 4 hurricane – when it brushed the northern part of the Big Island, before weakening and passing south of the rest of the state.

There is historical precedence for the scenario: On Aug. 9, 1871, the storm that is now known as the Kohala Cyclone pounded North Kohala while moving on a similar path.

Historical accounts of the day describe winds that flattened crops, destroyed homes and uprooted trees. One observer described a mango tree 15 inches in diameter “snapped as a pipe stem, just above the surface of the ground.”

“Old solid kukui trees which had the stood the storms of a score of years were torn up and pitched about like chaff,” he said.

Trees were also uprooted on Maui, while residents of Hilo reported strong winds, and those living in Kona and Ka`u saw heavy rain but no wind.

For this year’s drill, Hawaii County Civil Defense incorporated community involvement.

Many of the events focused on Honoka`a because of its proximity to the fictitious hurricane and its potential for isolation as a result of a real hurricane event.

They began last Thursday with tests of preparedness by organizations, followed the next day with practicing of readiness by individual citizens. On Saturday, the focus of the test was a simulated hurricane shelter at the Honoka`a Gym.

The simulation moved to Hilo Monday, and then it was back to Honoka`a where a shelter-in-place drill was conducted Tuesday at the Hale Ho`ola Hamakua hospital.

Makani Pahili 2013 will conclude Thursday with an “after-action” review at the Hilo EOC.

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