Big Isle keeps eye on Hurricane Felicia


POSTED: Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Big Island foliage grower Enrique Martinez said he is not planning any off-island trips this weekend, and he is closely watching the forecasts for Hurricane Felicia to determine whether ocean shipments of his products might be canceled.

“;A couple of times in the past, they canceled because of storms,”; said Martinez, general manager of California & Hawaii Foliage Growers.

Hurricane Felicia was less than 1,900 miles from Hawaii last night on a track that would put it within striking distance of the Big Island early next week, perhaps as a weaker tropical storm.

Although its path and intensity remain uncertain, the storm emphasizes the need for residents to be prepared and to monitor forecasts.

Felicia strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane yesterday, with sustained winds of 100 mph and higher gusts. It was moving west-northwest at 12 mph and was expected to cross into the Central Pacific late Friday or early Saturday.

Behind Felicia is Tropical Storm Enrique, roughly 2,300 miles from the Big Island last night, moving west-northwest at 16 mph with sustained winds of 60 mph and higher gusts.

National Weather Service lead forecaster Derek Wroe said Enrique is moving into cooler waters and not expected to be a threat.

Wroe said the Hawaiian Islands are heading into the peak of hurricane season. “;On average the month of August is the most active,”; he said.

Felicia and Enrique are the fifth and six named storms in the eastern Pacific this season.

The National Weather Service said surf along south shores is expected to slowly diminish but could increase from the east Monday due to the tropical cyclone activity.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park chief ranger Talmadge Magno said his planning group has already had talks with Hawaii County Civil Defense and the National Weather Service.

Magno said if the hurricane gets nearer and its path is toward the Big Island, park officials will cancel camping permits to the park. “;You just have to be flexible and watch”; the storm, he said.

Big Island Civil Defense head Quince Mento said the hurricane is too far away for a predication to be made as to its path.

Hawaii Island Chamber of Commerce Executive Officer Judi Steinman said as part of hurricane preparation, businesses will be meeting with Civil Defense today.

“;We have no real clue as to exactly where it's going to go,”; he said.

Authorities said Felicia is expected to cross the 140 degree long-itude, or about 1,000 miles east of Hilo, over the weekend, when the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu will take over monitoring of the storm.

For Martinez it could mean waiting a while before deciding to move thousands of pots of ornamental foliage from his property, and making sure there is no storm cancellation by the shippers. “;If there's going to be some risk, they'll say something. ... We don't ship,”; he said.