The National Weather Service broadcast that hurricane conditions are expected to reach the Big Island late Thursday as Iselle advances, the first of two hurricanes expected to hit Hawaii. The storm is expected to spread to Maui County, Oahu and Kauai by Friday. As hurricane Julio approaches over the weekend, more storms are possible. In Hawaii, the ones excited about the hurricanes are the surfers.
On its current path, Iselle looks to become the first hurricane to make landfall on the Big Island in recorded history. The main threat is heavy rain, surge flooding and surf heights up to 20 feet. There is a flash flood watch in effect.
Hilo gets about 200 inches of rainfall a year, while the dry side of the island might get only 10 to 15 inches a year. The two hurricanes could bring 10 inches in two days.
The Big Island has two volcanoes. Lots of locals believe the tall mountains, with peaks up to 14,000 feet, protect them from hurricanes. It remains to be seen how much of a blocking effect they will have on the two hurricanes.
Hawaii’s governor signed an emergency proclamation allowing easier access to disaster funds at the state and federal levels. The authorities are recommending residents procure a seven-day supply of food and water, prescription medications, flashlights, and radios. Schools are already closed for Thursday and Friday. All beach parks are closed and all but the most necessary of government offices, although primary elections will still be held, as scheduled, on Saturday. Many voters are turning up for early voting.
Chris Owens, owner of East Side Building explains, “Surfers get excited about these storms, but everyone else is freaking out.” Scott Murray owns the Hilo Surfboard Co. He has lived on the Big Island for 60 years. He remarked surfers are not worried about the storm, but rather psyched about the waves. He explains “people are not really nervous, but honestly, just hoping for some good surf. Surfers get excited when hurricane season starts.”
Hawaii has not been directly hit by a hurricane in 22 years. In 1992, a hurricane killed six people, destroyed 1,421 homes and caused $3 billion in damages. The Coast Guard is concerned with keeping the port of Honolulu open where 90 percent of Hawaii’s goods and services go through, servicing 1.5 million people. They have advised all small craft to return to port or seek safe harbor. Visitors are counseled to avoid coastal or forested areas because of dangers from flash floods, high surf, or falling trees. Numerous evacuation shelters will be open.
Hawaii is so remote; it could take a week before a full-scale disaster relief operation could be mounted. A 4.5 earthquake struck at the north tip of the Big Island this morning at 6:24. Thankfully, there have been no reports of damage.
The hurricane center predicts anywhere from five to 12 inches of rain, potentially causing rock and mudslides. The storm surge comes at high tide pushing one to three feet of water. They are expecting waves up to 15 feet west of the Big Island. There are actually 40 foot waves at Iselle’s current spot. The public should stay away from the water because of the risk of large waves and rip currents. However, the hurricane has excited Hawaii’s surfers because “surfers will do what surfers will do. “
By Laurie Stilwell