Laura Walker and Marcia May worked the Red Cross facility at a Pahala high school. CLICK FOR LARGE
Kona-side residents are calm before the storm
PAHALA, Hawaii » Visitors fled to shelters and residents near the southern tip of the Big Island protected their homes yesterday as Hurricane Flossie weakened and lost speed, delaying the expected arrival of potentially damaging winds and rain well into the night.
The storm packed some jolting gusts that wrapped around South Point and shook trees and power lines in several communities up the coast toward Kailua-Kona. Many businesses from Kainaliu to Pahala were closed, while workers at other stores said they would stay open as long as there was power.
The weather was dry with dark clouds until at least 8 p.m. Throughout the day and into the night, people seemed unfazed by the storm's threat -- children flew kites, played basketball and skateboarded, and families gathered on porches. As Flossie slowed near the coast, several residents said they would leave their homes only if they felt there was a hazard.
Windows of a coffee/Internet cafe were taped up yesterday in Naalehu. CLICK FOR LARGE
South Point resident Hunter Bauer, 53, covered his windows with plywood and crossed them with duct-tape "X's," as did many -- though not all -- who live closest to Flossie's forecast path.
"We'll see what happens," said Bauer, who ignored flapping trees and took his two dogs for an afternoon walk. "We'll be here and I'll be walking my dogs in the storm."
B.J. Galieto, a commercial fisherman, stared at the ocean off Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and listened to news updates from a radio on top of his rusty car. A county worker told a group of tourists walking on lava rocks nearby to leave.
"If we need to go, we will," said Galieto, a part-time security officer for the Keoua canoe club who would need to take a number of canoes with him if he left. "We are not sure yet but I got my trailer standing by."
At Milolii, a community known as Hawaii's last fishing village that sits about 10 miles from the main coastal highway, several residents were lounging in their beachfront back yards while Alice Gouveia and five of her friends prepared to have a picnic by the water.
"We are just hanging around here having lunch," she said. "If the ocean gets rough, we'll go out."
But not everyone took risks.
Some 152 people had checked in to 10 shelters set up by the Red Cross across the county by noon, the last available count, said Maria Lutz, director of disaster services. Pahoa High School in Puna packed the most people, 52, followed by Waiakea High with 42 and Keaau High, where 29 planned to spend the night on cots. More shelters could be quickly set up overnight if there was demand, Lutz said.
Visiting from Santa Cruz, Calif., Nancy Bartels and Michelle Kern joined eight other friends in a shelter at Kau High and Pahala Elementary. The group decided to get out of their vacation rental in Punaluu when giant waves began smashing onto the jagged lava wall at Black Sands, which was shut down.
"Mother Nature can be so unpredictable," said Kern. "We didn't want to take chances."