Thursday, December 30, 2004

Agencies prepare
for floods

Rain and high winds are
forecast to hit Oahu and
Kauai tomorrow evening

State and city agencies are urging residents to prepare for potential flooding, hazardous driving conditions and power failures from a strong storm that is forecast to hit New Year's Eve.

Be ready in case
the power goes out

Hawaiian Electric Co. says customers can take several precautions in preparation for a storm expected to hit tomorrow, bringing high winds and heavy rains.

Before the storm, residents should:

» Turn refrigerators and freezer to their coldest settings, in case the power goes out.
» Buy emergency supplies, including flashlights, batteries, canned foods, bottled water and a portable radio.
» Check backup alternatives if a household member is dependent on electric-powered medical equipment.
» Turn off and unplug unnecessary electrical equipment, especially sensitive electronics.
For more information, call 548-7311 or go to HECO's Web site at www.heco.com . To report a power failure, call 548-7961.

Oahu Civil Defense volunteers are on call in anticipation of heavy thundershowers, expected to start early tomorrow and continue through New Year's Day, said spokesman John Cummings III. Also, police were instructed to increase patrols of flood-prone areas.

Cummings, along with city and state officials, said most flood-prone Oahu streams were cleared during regular maintenance checkups this month. But Cummings said residents should notify authorities of any clogged or debris-filled waterways immediately so they can be cleared before the storm is expected to hit.

"Folks who live along streams need to be real cognizant" of the flooding potential, Cummings said.

National Weather Service forecaster Brad Fujii said Oahu and Kauai will get the brunt of the storm, but all islands are expected to get some rain. Strong winds, with gusts of up to 60 mph, will accompany the storm. Winds of 20 to 35 mph are expected to start tomorrow but will lessen slightly on New Year's Day.

Honolulu Airport officials will monitor the conditions and could delay flights if the winds get too high, said state Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

"It's very, very rare when we actually have to shut down the airport because of high winds," Ishikawa said, "but we'll just have to make a judgment."

Also, Hawaiian Electric Co. is asking residents to prepare for outages, as the strong winds could topple poles. In a news release, HECO also reminded residents to steer clear of downed power lines.

Ishikawa said road maintenance equipment has been positioned around the island in case emergency repairs are needed. Crews have been alerted they could be working New Year's Eve, a state holiday.

Drivers should use caution during the storm, Ishikawa said, and slow down if roads are wet.

On Monday, Likelike Highway was shut down because of heavy rains. Ishikawa said parts of the highway were "roughed up" to increase traction and prevent drivers from hydroplaning in wet weather.

"We're still asking folks to follow the speed limit," Ishikawa said. "When the roads are wet, you have less time to react to something in front of you."

Hardware stores have seen an influx of customers stocking up for the storm, with sandbags nearly sold out at some locations. At Kilgo's on Sand Island Access Road, residents were snatching up sandbags all day, and the store expected to sell out by yesterday afternoon. Sandbags were also selling well at Safety Systems Hawaii Inc.

"People are just really cautious," said Kilgo's manager Keri Kaauwai. "They're being prepared ahead of time."

She said tarpaulins, rubber boots and raincoats are also flying out the door.

National Weather Service

E-mail to City Desk


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