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Hurricane Lane maintained its category 4 strength as it crept closer to Hawaii on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service placed Oahu and Maui on a hurricane watch, while the Big Island was under a hurricane warning.
Local residents, authorities and businesses were preparing for the storm.
At the Costco warehouse in Iwilei — one of the company’s busiest locations — bottled water was leaving the shelves at an accelerated pace.
Shopping carts stacked with cases of water lined the checkout aisles. Costco employees could be seen rolling out more large pallets filled with bottled water from a backroom warehouse to replenish the shelves.
Just three and a half hours after Costco opened, customers had already purchased 777 cases of water – each containing 40 bottles, the store’s computer inventory system showed.
That compared to 920 cases of water purchased over the entire 12-hour day the previous Monday, according to local Costco officials reviewing the inventory.
Oahu native Tony Raiola, a Kaimuki resident, headed to Costco to buy three cases of water and maybe a couple of flashlights after his wife texted him to stock up ahead of Lane.
Raiola didn’t need to be convinced; he said he witnessed Hurricane Iniki’s destruction across Kauai in 1992 when working to restore the telephone poles there.
Forecasts from the National Weather Service show Lane could follow a similar path as Iniki’s, moving west and then swerving north, where it could bring hurricane-strength rains, winds, as well as flooding and high surf, across a vulnerable island chain.
From the West Coast it takes five to eight days for cargo ships to reach Hawaii. Typically, there’s no long-term storage for the retail food and supplies sold here, and the state relies heavily on such shipments.
“That’s all we need,” Raiola said of the approaching storm. Still, he was hopeful Hawaii would be spared. “It’s like a near-miss. You always look at the near-miss side of things.”
Lane is a category 4 hurricane with sustainted winds to 150 mph.
On Oahu, city crews checked the island’s channels and streams to try and ensure they weren’t blocked with sand and debris, according to Andrew Pereira, a spokesman for Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Blocked streams have caused damage across Oahu during storms in recent years. In 2016, for example, flood waters from tropical storm Darby clogged the Kalihi Stream and overwhelmed the adjacent Kalihi Transit Center, leaving 25 Handi-Vans inoperable.
Caldwell on Monday morning met with city departments and Oahu organizations in the city’s emergency operations center, located in a basement below the Frank Fasi Municipal building, to discuss Lane.
The EOC hasn’t been “activated yet,” meaning it’s not being staffed 24 hours, Pereira said.
If the storm does bear down on Oahu, its wind speed and rain will drive decisions on which emergency shelters to open for the public, according to John Cummings, a spokesman for the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management.
Meanwhile, the Hawaiian Electric Co. on Monday urged customers to begin putting their emergency plans in place, reminding residents to stock up on bottled water, nonperishable food and other supplies.
The company itself was in a planning mode, said Shannon Tangonan, a HECO spokeswoman. The company has an interdepartmental incident command structure of 30 to 40 executives and engineers set up through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Tangonan said. The group has been meeting each morning and more often as needed to plan.
With the storm expected to hit in about four days, workers at power plants were running through preparation checklists, Tangonan said, which included taking inventory of supplies and fuel. As the storm gets closer, she said, workers will start taking other precautions, such as securing equipment and facilities.
HECO, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, and other groups were scheduled to meet with Caldwell and city departments at the EOC 8 a.m. Tuesday. Officials will discuss the potential opening of shelters at that meeting, Cummings said.
Material from the Associated Press was included in this story.
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