As Hurricane Lane continued it slow slog along the edge of the Hawaiian Islands, tourists gathered on the rugged southeast coast of Oahu, away from the high-rise hotels of Waikiki, watching powerful waves crash against the cliffs below. (Aug. 24)
HONOLULU — Roadways were virtually empty, stores closed, no buses are running and some buildings were boarded up as Honolulu prepared for the arrival of Lane, originally a hurricane but downgraded to a tropical storm Friday afternoon.
The National Weather Service warned that even a tropical storm can bring maximum winds of 70 miles per hour and that the threat of flooding was still present through Saturday.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Governor David Ige said at a press conference in Honolulu.
The island of Oahu, home to 69 percent of Hawaii’s population, has been preparing for days for the storm’s slow, 5 mph approach. The possible arrival of a Category 5 hurricane — Lane’s strength on Tuesday — was reason enough to batten down the hatches.
The city ended bus service Thursday evening and was thinking of reopening limited service at least to the airport from downtown on Friday, but decided against it.
“Any gusts of winds over 40 mph are dangerous for bus drivers and riders,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. Tropical storms can have winds as high as 74 mph.
Several homes in the city have lost roofs due to gusting winds, while downed trees have been a problem in some areas, leading to pocket power outages.
Close to 1,100 people are staying in the 20 shelters set up at Honolulu schools, Caldwell said. But there’s more room for those who feel their homes might not be safe during possible torrential rains and winds.
For most people in the city, Friday was restful. Businesses were closed, giving many people an impromptu holiday.
“There isn’t much to do, you can’t go shopping, everything’s closed. So we’re all hanging out, watching the TV news, and going out for walks,” said Desiree Beveridge, who with her partner Eric Smythe was out walking their dog Bruce Wayne.
The difference of being on an island when danger approaches is that there’s nowhere to go, said Smythe, a Honolulu resident originally from Florida.
“If this were Florida, this would all be under mandatory evacuation and we’d all have driven north. Here there’s nowhere to go, you’ve just go to ride it out,” he said.
Whereas much of the city was quiet, the sidewalks near Waikiki beach were full Friday afternoon. Thousands of tourists staying in the dozens of hotels in the area walked around looking at boarded-up and sandbagged stores, searching for anyplace open that had food.
“We bought a couple of pizzas and that’s what we had for lunch and what we’ll have for dinner,” said Bruce Webber of Auckland, New Zealand.
He and his wife had spent the last ten days in Hawaii and are due to fly home Monday.
“We bought some potatoes and we figure that if worse comes to worse we can cook them in the microwave in our room and make potato salad,” his wife, Raewyn Webber, said. “Though if they don’t open the stores by Sunday we may well run out.”
In a cruel twist of fate, the island of Maui dealt with three wildfires, possibly caused by downed power lines and whipped by strong winds.
As many as 2,300 acres burned and at least seven homes were damaged or destroyed, officials said. Hundreds of homes were evacuated.
On the Big Island of Hawaii, the rains continued Friday even as Lane swept past, with some areas receiving as much as 35 inches of precipitation. Streams and rivers were rising above their banks, while roads were washed out or impassable due to flooding and homes have been destroyed.
Guy Berryessa in San Francisco got a call from the tenants of a house his family owns in Papaikou, just north of Hilo on the island, and received a startling update.
“The entire backyard is gone,” Berryessa said about the home.
The previous owner had put in a 30-foot rock retaining wall and extensive drainage to protect against flooding from nearby creeks, but the 26 inches of rain the town got in 48 hours overcame them.
“I fear it’s a total loss,” Berryessa said. But he’d spent the day finding other housing for his tenants. “We’ll worry about the house later, they’re more important right now.”
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