Story updated at 8 a.m., 7/27/20
Hurricane Douglas narrowly skirted Hawaii on Sunday and early Monday as the storm passed just north of the islands.
The National Weather Service lifted its last hurricane warning, for Kauai, as of 5 a.m. Douglas’ wind speeds had further increased slightly to 90 miles per hour but it stayed far enough away to not cause damage, forecasters reported.
The Category 1 storm left Oahu, Maui and Big Island relatively unscathed earlier Sunday.
Earlier hurricane warnings for Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai were canceled, as was the tropical storm warning for Big Island.
Maui County was expected to see the peak impacts Sunday afternoon. There was no severe damage reported on Maui island as of 11 a.m., according to Mayor Mike Victorino.
Douglas still a Cat 1 hurricane as it closes in; Oahu, Maui County and Kauai under hurricane warning.
— Chelsea Davis (@ChelseaDavisHNN) July 26, 2020
Oahu was forecast to see the triple-threat force of severe winds, life-threatening surf and heavy rains this evening, officials said. The storm took a more northerly path though, which severely lessened the blow.
Forecasters had said upwards of 3 to 6 inches of rain was expected for parts of Oahu and Kauai, which could cause landslides and flash flooding.
“This is the closest approach for a hurricane that we’ve had in at least the last decade,” Gov. David Ige said in a Sunday press briefing.
Hawaii County Police Chief Paul Ferreira said that as of about 9 a.m. Sunday, there were no reports of high wind, heavy rain or any damages on Hawaii Island. “So far we’ve managed to dodge the bullet,” he said via text message.
Forecasters had been watching the storm’s course extremely closely in case it “jogs to the left” — cutting further west and closer to the islands, said Robert Ballard, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s science and operations officer.
Even the slightest “zig” or “wobble” in that track could have made the bad weather drastically worse, he said.
Douglas was still “uncomfortably and dangerously close,” he added Sunday morning.
Hawaii braced for heavy and life-threatening surf to the islands’ north- and east-facing shores as people boarded up homes and businesses and a handful fled to emergency shelters.
Ports in Honolulu and Kauai counties entered condition “Zulu” on Sunday morning per Coast Guard order. Not only does that close those ports to incoming craft, but it also requires any vessels docked there to leave and find safer waters.
The islands weren’t seeing the same strong wind shear that helped swiftly break apart Hurricane Lane in 2018, forecasters said Saturday.
State transportation officials said Friday that they were bracing for impacts to Hawaii Belt Road in Hamakua on the Big island, Hana Highway on Maui and Kamehameha Highway on Oahu’s Windward side. There were reports of road closures near Kaaawa.
Honolulu has not suffered a direct strike from a hurricane since at least 1900, but has experienced impacts from cyclones that passed close by.
National Hurricane Center researchers list Hurricane Iniki on Sept. 11, 1992 as the deadliest and costliest hurricane ever to strike the state of Hawaii, leaving four people dead and $1.8 billion in damage after it made landfall on Kauai.
Hurricane Iwa was the next most damaging storm, killing one person and doing an estimated $312 million damage as it passed Kauai on Nov. 23, 1982. Parts of Oahu also suffered damage from Iwa.
Hurricane Nina was blamed for four deaths as it passed Kauai on Dec. 2, 1957, according to the Hurricane Center, and Hurricane Dot also did substantial damage when it struck Kauai on Aug. 6, 1959.
On Sunday, state health officials announced 64 new COVID-19 cases, after having announced 73 new COVID-19 cases statewide Saturday. The island state is seeing its largest number of new cases since the pandemic began.
On Saturday, Hawaii broke its single-day record for cases for a third consecutive day. There are concerns over the ability of the disease to spread further if large numbers of residents must pack into emergency shelters.
During back-to-back media briefings Friday, Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell urged local residents to replenish their 14-day hurricane kits not only with the usual food, water, medicine and the other supplies — but also multiple face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to help guard against COVID-19.
Emergency officials on Oahu opened 13 emergency shelters at 9 a.m. Sunday. The list included the Hawaii Convention Center, which Caldwell said could accommodate around 1,600 evacuees even if they hoped not to see those numbers.
Caldwell said Friday that the island might open as many as 25 such shelters. Having the convention center reduced the amount of sites they needed, he said on Saturday.
Evacuees will have to bring their own food and supplies.
Here’s a comprehensive list of what to include, in addition to masks and sanitizer. Officials on Saturday encouraged the public to spend the rest of the day preparing but the storm stayed north.
The local Red Cross, meanwhile, put out the call for more healthy, adult volunteers to help manage expanded emergency shelter space.
“We know that the shelters, with the social distancing, are just not going to be able to handle the numbers that they normally would,” Regional Red Cross CEO Diane Peters-Nguyen said Friday.
Those interested should call 739-8122 or visit redcross.org/hawaii.
Such emergency shelters are considered a last resort if sheltering in place doesn’t work and there’s no other place to go. Anyone who arrives at those emergency shelters will be temperature screened, officials said Friday.
In non-pandemic times, Honolulu officials allow for about 10 square feet per evacuee in an emergency shelter. During a pandemic, they’ve estimated they’ll need about 10 times that amount so the evacuees can stay socially distant.
Honolulu Director of Emergency Management Hiro Toya called it a “huge challenge” in May.
City and state officials have been trying to negotiate a deal with hotels to use some of the many rooms left vacant by the pandemic. On Friday, as Douglas neared, they said they were still working on it but no such deal has been reached.
The storm will also allow new arrivals to the islands to break the 14-day quarantine “as a last resort” to go pick up hurricane supplies if they can’t get those delivered, Ige said.
He stressed, however, that those arrivals should make arrangements to have the supplies delivered to their quarantine site.
Some updates on Oahu’s city services include:
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