FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Punaluu Black Sand Beach resident Earl Louis, right, and friends Joyce Sayles, left, Joanne Fierstein and Danny Miller watched the ocean fronting the beach as the winds increased. The high winds whipped tree fronds -- and Sayles's hair. CLICK FOR LARGE
Threat of rainfall keeps port, park and schools closed
HILO » With Flossie slowing just as it appeared ready to pass safely 90 miles south of the Big Island, Mayor Harry Kim told assembled officials the biggest threat now is rain.
The amount of rain was uncertain. "It's very unpredictable," he said.
"The worst case is this system stalls outside of Hawaii island. You can have a lot of rain for a long time," he said last night.
» All Big Island public schools were to remain closed today for the second straight day.
» Public charter schools also are closed, but Department of Education officials said parents of Waters of Life students should check with the school to verify whether it will be opened.
» The Community School for Adults in Hilo and Kona and the Kamehameha Schools' Big Isle campus also are closed today.
» State employees on the Big Island who are designated as "non-disaster response workers" should not report to work today.
With uncertainty being the order of the day, the Coast Guard kept the port of Hilo closed to passenger and cargo vessels, all schools remained closed today, Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park halted admission to everyone except guests of the Volcano House hotel and Kilauea Military Camp, and county agencies operated with emergency personnel only.
Closing the port meant more lost revenue from 2,200 shipboard tourists, inability to unload supplies such as bottled water and toilet paper, and a barge loaded with fuel oil ordered to wait out at sea, officials said.
The cause of the concern was the former hurricane that had slowed to a 10 mph crawl as it moved west-northwest.
"I'm hoping she does not stall," Kim said. If the forward speed slows further, he said, "it's just drifting, meandering out there."
The only good thing about that is that Flossie is far enough offshore that hurricane-strength winds can't reach the island, Kim said.
Despite worries about rain, the wettest areas around Hilo got less than 2 inches in the 24 hours ending at 5 p.m. and the most exposed areas at the bottom of the island got none at all.
County Civil Defense Director Troy Kindred said satellite images show high-altitude ice particles, not rain, and Doppler radar shows low-level rain, but can be deceptive about how much. The best indication of conditions comes in hourly reports from police and Fire Department observers in the field.
"What they feel is what the community feels," he said.
When rain does come, it will arrive in waves, some heavier than others, Kindred said.
Meanwhile, closing the port of Hilo meant that the ship Pride of Aloha, with about 2,200 passengers, will probably bypass Hilo today and head toward Maui as the Pride of Hawaii with 2,900 passengers did just two days earlier.
State Harbormaster Ian Birnie said one barge was being unloaded, but was ordered towed out to sea still half-full.
"We need this cargo," Kim said.
Virtually no damage had taken place. Water was reported 3 feet deep in part of the Vacationland subdivision, but it receded yesterday, causing no harm.
Three large families of voluntary evacuees, fearful of falling trees in their area, stayed at the Red Cross shelter in Pahoa, said shelter chief Vicki Fiege.
At the Keaau shelter, evacuee Sandy Cordeiro-Jaspar she was already scared by the hurricane and left home with a neighbor after the 5.4-magnitude earthquake hit Monday night.
"I feel more secure," she said at the shelter yesterday, despite sleeping the first night on the hard floor of Keaau High School.