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Quarantine Can be Broken in Some Instances as Hawai‘i Prepares for Imminent Storm Impact

July 24, 2020, 3:21 PM HST
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Hawai‘i is bracing for impact from Hurricane Douglas as state officials said Friday severe weather is essentially guaranteed over the course of the weekend.

The first major hurricane of the 2020 season, forecasts show Douglas passing dangerously close to the Hawaiian Islands, if not directly over them. Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said on its current track, the storm is likely to impact his island worse than any other in regards to flooding and high winds.

However, Gov. David Ige urged residents and visitors on all islands to spend the next 36 hours stockpiling supplies and preparing for all hazards and inconveniences that accompany the landfall of a hurricane.

“We do anticipate significant wind, rain, a flooding impact, and a storm surge along eastern shores, whether it’s a direct hit or not,” Ige said.

“We urge the state of Hawai‘i residents and visitors to really know the hazards where they live, work, and play,” added Luke Meyers, an administrator with the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency (HIEMA). “Things are gonna get wet, things are gonna blow, and things are gonna slide. We may experience some power outages, so having an all-hazards radio is (important).”

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The HIEMA website provides a list of all supplies people should have on hand, including food, water, and medicine for two weeks. Due to the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hawai‘i, face coverings and hand sanitizers should also be considered priority items.

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John Bravender, a warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Hurricane Douglas remained a category 3 storm as of Friday afternoon, down from its highest intensity as a category 4. The storm was approximately 800 miles east-southeast of Hilo as of 2 p.m.

While the National Weather Service believes Douglas will continue to weaken through the next 36 hours and will only slow down slightly — meaning it won’t stall above the islands, increasing rainfall totals and potential flooding impact — the storm will still pack a significant punch once it arrives in Hawaiian waters.

“Hurricane-force conditions are still possible with this track,” Bravender said. “There’s still the possibility of intense, heavy rainfall. We could see (life-threatening) flash flooding and landslide problems.”

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He also mentioned danger from high winds.

The first hazard to arrive, however, will be damaging and destructive surf on the east- and south-facing shores of all islands. Bravender said the National Weather Service’s predictive models of a hurricane’s pathway have an average error margin of approximately 100 miles three days before landfall and 80 miles two days prior.

But Bravender explained that even if models are off in their predictions, and the hurricane changes track away from the islands, the surf is still coming. The storm was powerful enough to build up high seas. Bravender said seas will increasingly rise around the Hawaiian Islands throughout the day Saturday, with the most damaging surf likely peaking late Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

Perfect storm

Any landfall of Hurricane Douglas is likely to exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis currently gripping Hawai‘i, which has reported record-breaking case numbers Thursday and again on Friday.

The governor said the state, county, and private-sector are collaborating to house the homeless in need of shelter. More shelters will be established to account for necessary social distancing. Ige added that he is prepared to activate more National Guard personnel in addition to those already called up to active duty as part of the state’s campaign against the coronavirus.

Any person at a shelter testing positive for quarantine will be isolated in one of several hotel rooms the state will procure through partnerships.

As for those in quarantine currently, the rules are a little different considering the impending storm.

“Everyone subject to quarantine continues to be under quarantine,” Ige said. “If they are in quarantine, they should have made arrangements for delivery of food as necessary.”

However, those unable to procure supplies from some source of assistance will be allowed to break quarantine to gather necessary food, water, medicine, etc.

“You can break quarantine to get the needed supplies as necessary, but please, we ask you to maintain physical distance, utilize non-contact retail options to the extent possible … so that you can maintain physical distance and reduce the ability to infect others,” the governor continued.

Those under quarantine are asked to shelter in place. However, if they don’t feel their current locations are safe from the storm, they should contact the Department of Health to arrange moving or travel to a shelter, making clear they are under the quarantine mandate upon arrival.

The public is reminded to be aware of potential misinformation circulating on social media. Tune into county emergency management agencies and trusted media sources for reliable updates.

Those who wish to volunteer at an emergency shelter should contact the American Red Cross. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has personnel and supply presence in both Hawai‘i and Maui Counties, which are both under a hurricane watch as of Friday morning.

FEMA also has a center on O‘ahu with supplies and personnel.

National Weather Service Update, 2 p.m., July 24, 2020

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for the Big Island of Hawai‘i and for Maui County — including Maui, Lana‘i, Moloka‘i, and Kaho‘olawe.

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area, in this case within 36 to 48 hours.

The center of Hurricane Douglas was located near latitude 17.4° North, longitude 144.3° West. Douglas is moving toward the west-northwest near 18 mph. This motion is expected to continue for the next two days, followed by a slight decrease in forward speed and a turn toward the west. On the forecast track, Douglas will be near the main Hawaiian Islands on Sunday and Monday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 115 mph with higher gusts. Douglas is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Gradual and steady weakening is expected to continue through the weekend. However, Douglas is still forecast to be near hurricane strength when it nears the islands.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 28.56 inches.

HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND

WIND: Hurricane conditions are possible on the Big Island late Saturday night and Sunday, with tropical storm conditions possible by Saturday evening. Hurricane conditions are possible over Maui county Sunday, with tropical storm conditions possible beginning late Saturday night.

SURF: Large swells generated by Douglas are expected to begin affecting portions of the Hawaiian Islands on Saturday. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions for a couple of days.

RAINFALL: Heavy rainfall associated with Douglas is expected to affect portions of the Hawaiian Islands from late Saturday night through Monday. Total rain accumulations of 6 to 10 inches with isolated maximum totals of 15 inches are possible, especially in higher terrain. This rain may result in life-threatening flash flooding and landslides.

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