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Ship stands by NW Islands in case storm perils workers


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has the research ship Oscar Elton Sette standing by in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands in case Hurricane Neki poses a threat to a field team of three people on Laysan Island, said NOAA spokeswoman Wende Goo.

The Honolulu-based Sette has been removing marine debris in the French Frigate Shoals area, she said, explaining it has been diverted from that mission and put on standby if needed to pick up U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees on Laysan.

“;We're monitoring the situation with the weather service and other agencies,”; she said.

The hurricane watch issued Monday for Johnston Island was changed to a tropical storm watch at 5 p.m. yesterday, meaning tropical storm conditions were possible within 48 hours. The hurricane appeared to shift direction toward the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands yesterday, said Jim Weyman, Central Pacific Hurricane Center director.

At 5 p.m. yesterday the storm was 625 miles southwest of Honolulu and 295 miles east-southeast of Johnston. It was moving northwest at 15 mph and was expected to turn toward the north-northwest and slow down, the weather service said.

Neki is a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph, and was expected to intensify.