Olivia, the latest in an unsettling string of tropical cyclones to barrel toward Hawaii this hurricane season, is likely to bring strong winds and heavy rains to the islands starting late Tuesday.
Hawaii’s leaders are trying to rally residents to stay on guard just two weeks after many went into full mobilization mode as Hurricane Lane approached.
On Monday, Oahu officially joined Maui and Hawaii counties under a tropical storm warning for Olivia. The status, issued by the National Weather Service, means the islands should see the effects of the storm within 36 hours. On Tuesday, the warning was extended to Kauai County.
This satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Olivia east of Hawaii at around 6:30 a.m. Monday. It weakened to a tropical storm hours later.
In the past two days, the message has been for local residents to transcend any “hurricane fatigue” — the hangover of worry from Lane and Hector earlier this summer — and to stay vigilant this week as Olivia descends from the northeast.
Latest NWS advisory: 2 p.m.
Maximum sustained winds: 55 mph
Location: 135 miles northeast of Hilo, 260 miles east of Honolulu
Movement: West-southwest at 21 mph
The cyclone’s precise course is still unclear, but “it’s important that we don’t fix directly on the forecast track,” said Tom Travis, administrator for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. “This storm could directly impact every area of the state, from South Point to the North Shore of Kauai.”
Lane, Olivia’s predecessor, didn’t inflict the level of damage that many officials feared it would. But that storm, which lingered for several days near Hawaii, still took its toll by dousing the Big Island and Kauai with severe flooding and sparking destructive fires on Maui.
The projected path of Olivia as of Tuesday morning.
On Monday, Travis joined Gov. David Ige and other local authorities to warn that while Olivia won’t be as strong as Lane, a direct hit could be just as dangerous.
The official message to residents Monday was to take the next storm seriously. They advised local households to keep their 14-day supply kits ready.
“Please, folks, don’t let your guard down,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said during a midday media briefing at the Capitol. “A tropical storm is just as dangerous as a Category 1 (hurricane), and we don’t know what it’s going to look like as Olivia approaches the Hawaiian islands.”
State Of Vigilance
Caldwell, his cabinet, and other agencies joined the National Weather Service on at least two video-teleconference calls Monday to discuss Olivia’s progress. The city has so far opted against opening eight planned emergency shelter locations — most of them schools — but officials said they’ll reassess Tuesday morning.
City crews Monday also worked to clear debris from streams just as they did ahead of Lane, Caldwell said, to try and lessen the effects of flooding. The goal is to avoid the impacts Oahu saw in 2016 with Tropical Storm Darby, which turned parts of the H-1 Freeway into a “river,” as Caldwell recounted Monday, and left the city’s Kalihi Transit Center and many of its Handi-Vans damaged from flooding.
The National Weather Service, meanwhile, advised in an online update Monday to “resist the temptation” of even comparing Olivia to Lane.
“Although Lane was a stronger tropical cyclone near the islands, it did not bring direct core impacts to the state,” the updated states. “In some areas, Olivia could bring significantly worse impacts.”
Nonetheless, officials could be up against some hurricane fatigue from residents who spent days last month bracing for devastation from Lane.
“We don’t want to frighten people or overreact either so we’re asking for this kind of balanced approach,” Caldwell said during a briefing Sunday on Olivia. “I am hopeful that the impacts will not be dramatic on this island. But I’m not taking it for granted.”
Dolph Diemont of the Federal Emergency Management Agency talks about being prepared for Olivia on Monday.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Meanwhile, federal officials said Monday that they’re ready for Olivia — and that’s largely because of the sustained chain of flooding and lava-related disasters that have plagued the state since April.
FEMA’s liaison officers, as well as its search-and-rescue and medical teams, were dispatched across the islands Monday, said Dolph Diemont, a federal coordinating officer based in Seattle.
The agency has stockpiled food, water and generators across the state, Diemont said.
FEMA is currently stretched thin with multiple tropical cyclones bearing down on the U.S., Diemont said. That includes Hurricane Florence, a powerful and dangerous storm that threatens to strike the East Coast later this week. Nonetheless, “everything is here on the islands so we’re ready to go when (Olivia) happens,” Diemont said.
If most of those supplies weren’t already in Hawaii — and FEMA had to start from scratch to bring them to the state — then “we would be fighting for resources like you wouldn’t believe,” Diemont said.
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