Weakened Felicia still packs punch


POSTED: Monday, August 10, 2009

Oahu could face gale-force winds and heavy rain as early as tomorrow as former Hurricane Felicia approaches the islands, the National Weather Service warns.

“;It's going to bring lots of rain,”; said Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, state civil defense director. “;It has lots of coverage. It's big.”;

The weather service included Oahu yesterday in its tropical storm watch, which means possible winds of 39 to 73 mph within 48 hours.

A flash flood watch is also in effect through tomorrow afternoon for the counties of Maui and the Big Island; Oahu will be added tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, all islands except Lanai were told to expect surf topping 15 feet on east-facing shores.

“;The highest threat of damaging winds associated with Felicia has shifted to Maui County and Oahu,”; the weather service said. But effects from the storm can extend far from the center, and people on the Big Island should not let their guard down, the weather service said.

“;Oahu could possibly experience some of the strongest winds and strongest rains,”; said John Cummings, spokesman for the city's Department of Emergency Management.

The city's biggest concern, he said, was whether to open shelters.

“;If we get a tropical storm or a tropical depression, we'd probably be opening about 20 shelters,”; including pet-friendly and special-needs shelters, he said. “;If we do open a shelter, residents have to bring all their supplies with them.”;

;[Preview]  State Civil Defense continuing to monitor the storm

Public schools will remain open tomorrow while the national weather service and State Civil Defense keep a close watch on the storm.

Watch ]



;[Preview]  City crews clear out boulders in Aina Haina

City crews are working overtime right now to clear away areas that have had flooding problems in the past.

Watch ]


The American Red Cross made preparations to open 12 shelters on the Big Island, seven on Maui, two on Molokai and one on Lanai.





        » Develop a family disaster preparedness plan.

» Determine evacuation routes from your home and places to meet.


» Determine the location of official shelters. Have an out-of-state contact so all your family members have a single point of contact.


» Make a plan for what to do with your pets if you need to evacuate.


» Check your insurance coverage. Flood damage is not usually covered by homeowner's insurance.


Source: Central Pacific Hurricane Center




At 8 p.m. yesterday the center of the storm was 435 miles east-northeast of Hilo and 605 miles east of Honolulu. It was moving westward at 14 mph with 50 mph winds and higher gusts, the weather service said.

Forecasters expected the storm to continue to weaken but still reach the islands as either a tropical depression or a tropical storm as early as tonight.

“;It's still something the public needs to keep its eye on,”; said Air Force Reserve Lt. Col. Christa Hornbaker, of the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, which flew “;hurricane hunter”; WC-130 aircraft into the storm yesterday to collect data.

The squadron, based at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, plans its final flight into Felicia today.

Public schools are open today, with Department of Education officials assessing whether to close some schools tomorrow. One charter school, West Hawaii Explorations Academy on the Big Island, will not open today.

Several windward beaches closed yesterday on the Big Island, while Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed all back-country trails and campsites within the park until the storm passes. The park service today will close the Haleakala visitor center, summit trails and the back-country areas.

On Maui, county officials closed several windward parks and will close all campgrounds and swimming pools at noon today.

The weather service held out the possibility of “;at least minor wind damage somewhere within the Hawaiian Islands.”; Preparations to minimize damage should be made as soon as possible, and loose outdoor objects should be secured, officials advised.

On Oahu, firefighters cleared debris from Waihi Stream and Manoa Stream, which flooded in heavy rain in 2004.

Some Oahu residents continued to stock up on water, batteries and flashlights.

Herman Barsatan, a manager at Costco Waipio, said customer traffic had been heavy through the weekend.

The store was on track to sell out of water last night, was already low on batteries and out of flashlights, he said. A shipment of water was expected to arrive today.

“;It's definitely a busy day for us,”; he said.