GREGG K. KAKESAKO / GKAKESAKO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sgt. 1st Class Charles Daniels is a member of the Army's 307th Integrated Theater Signal Battalion, which is supplying satellite communications for this year's monthlong joint military and civilian hurricane preparedness exercises.
Military faces virtual storm
Winds as strong as 155 mph slammed Oahu three days ago as Hurricane Makani passed over -- in a military exercise.
As part of the exercise, the Army's Joint Task Force Homeland Defense moved its headquarters yesterday from Fort Shafter to Ford Island and -- despite power failures -- continued to assist state and county officials in assessing the damage caused by the Category 4 storm using mobile generators and satellite communications, according to its chief, Lt. Col. Ed Toy.
Military, state and county civil defense planners have not forgotten the devastation and deaths caused by Hurricane Iniki here in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina on the mainland in 2005. Annually, the state holds the monthlong Makani Pahili ("strong winds") exercise in preparation for hurricane season, which begins June 1.
Toy told reporters that since those two natural disasters, "the military services have worked more closely with Civil Defense agencies to better coordinate their efforts to reduce casualties and destruction from disasters in civilian communities."
He emphasized that in any natural disaster "the military will always work in support of civil authorities."
Toy said he does not know what type of hurricane season is in store for Hawaii this year. That assessment is expected Monday from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Last week, hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University predicted a "well above average" 2008 hurricane season for the mainland and the Atlantic Coast, with 15 named tropical storms gathering between June 1 and Nov. 30.
Four major hurricanes, including one with a good chance of hitting the United States, will form in the Atlantic Ocean during the upcoming season, experts said.
Toy said state and county civil defense planners will kick off their portion of Makani Pahili next week, focusing on preparation.
Last year, Toy said, the military worked on preparing military installations and personnel for a Category 4 hurricane. "We tracked its approach southeast of Hawaii. The exercise script had it coming ashore with 150 mph winds and storm surges up to 15 feet," Toy said.
"This year is a continuation of that exercise script," he added.
Soldiers from the Army's 307th Integrated Theater Signal Battalion erected one of its 15 mobile satellite dishes at the Ford Island command post to maintain vital communications such as Internet, e-mail, phone and video teleconferencing services.
The Associated Press, National Geographic News Service and Reuters contributed to this report.