Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Storm-savvy islanders
stock up on goods to
be safe, not sorry

» Chances of hurricane hit unlikely

It's not easy for a place like Costco to run out of things.

But by 11 a.m. yesterday, it came close. The hot item of the day: bottled water.

Anxious customers also made a run for batteries, canned goods and other staples, their frenzied shopping directly linked to the possibility that two hurricanes could get within striking distance of Hawaii.

Even as weather forecasters predicted that Hurricanes Jova and Kenneth were expected to weaken and miss the islands, many residents said they wanted to be prepared just in case. A third storm, Hurricane Max, was likewise not expected to affect Hawaii.

Yesterday, many Costco shoppers first headed to the rear of the store, where pallets of bottled water are kept.

"It's the basic necessity of life," said Chris Kanei, a Red Hill resident who picked up five cases of bottled water for family members and friends after she heard that Costco in Waipio Gentry sold out of bottled water Sunday.

"I was here 5 (minutes) to 10 a.m. That's the first thing I grabbed," Kanei said.

By 11 a.m., pallets of bottles of Arrowhead water were empty. Cases of large bottles of Menehune water and other cases of fruit-flavored bottled water were still available to shoppers.

Aiea resident Ken Sakihama also filled his shopping cart with paper goods, canned tuna, corned beef, Spam and Vienna sausage. Sakihama said he prepares for the hurricane season every year since Hurricane Iniki struck in September 1992.

"I saw Kauai. I know how bad it can be," said Sakihama, who is originally from Kapaa.

He recalled how his mother's home sustained damage to its roof and garage. "We were lucky. Others got hit bad," he said.

At the end of the hurricane season, Sakihama said, he donates most of his canned goods to charitable organizations.

Costco was not the only store doing brisk business. In Pearl City, hundreds of residents flocked to Sam's Club over the weekend to stock up on water and nonperishable foods.

Batteries, diapers and canned goods are running low. And pallets of bottled water were wiped out by shoppers at the Pearl City and Keeaumoku stores Sunday, General Manager Rodney Arias said.

More pallets of bottled water were to be delivered yesterday afternoon. Workers were unloading it from containers about 11:30 a.m. yesterday, Arias said. "It's going to be more crazy when the water gets here."

Ewa resident Walter Santos walked down the aisles pushing a cart filled with packs of canned tuna, Spam and spaghetti as well as large bottles of apple and cranberry juice yesterday.

"If the electricity does go down, I want to be prepared," Santos said. "This should hold us over for the next four to five days after the storm."

Santos said he already bought plywood in case he needs to cover the windows, and is also planning to buy some coolers.

Kaneohe resident Kehau Martinson was shopping with her daughter, Dawn Pasikala, at Sam's Club yesterday. She said they normally restock their shelves with canned goods to get ready for the hurricane season, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina forced her to improve her preparedness.

"We're usually pretty much prepared," Martinson said. "Hurricane Katrina has influenced us to prepare better."

"Toilet paper is like gold, yeah, when there is a strike or a storm," Martinson said. "Toilet paper and rice."

Similar preparations and long lines at stores were the norm throughout the islands, especially on the Big Island, which is closest to the storms.

At the downtown Longs Drug Store in Hilo, manager Kerwin Buyuan sees the nervousness of customers as they stock up on hurricane preparedness items. "You can see the worried look in their faces," he said.

Still, there has been no rush for supplies, just a steady stream of customers over the weekend, Buyuan said.

At the Hilo Wal-Mart, manager Terry Crowley saw a similar increase in buying over the weekend. "Sales are up," he said, but not so dramatically that he could give an estimate of the increase. He described the mental state of customers as "cautious."

At Hawaii County Civil Defense headquarters, agency head Lanny Nakano said some residents are not cautious enough. He mentioned a man with a family of eight who had no evacuation plan or evacuation kit.

The kit is important because evacuation centers will only put a roof over people's heads. There will be no bedding, no cots, no Red Cross food for the first three days, he said.

Besides bedding, food, and water, people should be thinking about special needs like medications, Nakano said.

A list of shelters has been drawn up but will be announced in radio messages only if they are necessary, Nakano said. Individuals in charge of the shelters have also been designated, he said.

"This doesn't mean shelters will open," Nakano said. The danger from Hurricane Jova might be so little that no shelters are needed or so great that the safest action is for people to evacuate to the other side of the island, he said.

Civil Defense Web site

Central Pacific Hurricane Center

National Hurricane Center - Tropical Prediction Center
Tropical Storm Tracker
NWS Hawaii radar

Sam's Club shoppers Kendis Teho and her daughter Kaela, 6, hauled a case of bottled water yesterday as they prepared for possible bad weather later this week.

Experts say chances
unlikely of hurricane hit

Hurricanes Jova, Kenneth and Max are not expected to hit Hawaii, say forecasters who are keeping close track of the storms.

"Right now, it looks encouraging that we won't have the dangerous effects of the hurricane," said lead forecaster Roy Matsuda, of the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

As of last night, Hurricane Jova was a Category 3 storm, traveling about 800 miles east-southeast of Hilo moving northwesterly at 7 mph with peak winds of about 115 mph, Matsuda said.

Matsuda predicted that peripheral showers and high surf from Jova could affect the Big Island either Saturday or Sunday.

Behind Jova is Hurricane Kenneth, a Category 1 storm with top winds of about 80 mph, about 1,400 miles east-southeast of Hilo traveling about 4 mph. The hurricane is about 600 miles from Jova, according to forecasters. Kenneth was weakening rapidly to a tropical storm by Thursday.

"It may eventually turn toward the islands and may come as leftover showers as a dying system," Matsuda said, noting that predicted showers will not arrive until later next week.

He said there is a "slight chance" that either storm will strike the islands. "It's not a likely occurrence."

Farther east is Hurricane Max, with peak winds of 75 mph, which is predicted to have no effect on Hawaii. It is moving north-northwest off the coast of Mexico.

The storm was about 600 miles southeast of Baja California yesterday and is predicted to weaken to a tropical depression by the end of next week.

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