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2 islands evacuated ahead of Neki


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POSTED: Thursday, October 22, 2009

The threat of Hurricane Neki prompted evacuation of 17 people from two remote islands in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration diverted a ship that happened to be in the area for cleanup work to pick up seven people yesterday from Laysan Island, which has no airfield.

“;They're running out of the storm's way,”; said NOAA spokeswoman Wende Goo.

The NOAA's Oscar Elton Sette was scheduled to arrive at Laysan at 3 p.m. yesterday and leave at 5 p.m. to skirt the storm.

“;Picking these people up is mostly precautionary,”; Goo said. “;Because we are really concerned about the safety of our employees, we'd rather be safe.”;

The island has a hurricane shelter, but it's built only for four, said U.S. Fish & Wildlife spokeswoman Barbara Maxfield.

Neki “;could do anything from completely overwash the island and take everything with it, or just give it a glancing blow,”; she said. “;But it wasn't worth putting people's lives in danger.”;

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Four Fish and Wildlife staff members and volunteers and three National Marine Fisheries Service monk seal researchers were evacuated from Laysan.

The Coast Guard picked up 10 people from Tern Island in French Frigate Shoals yesterday using a C-130 Hercules plane out of Barbers Point, arriving in Honolulu at 3 p.m.

The island has a very short, crushed-coral runway and its teeming bird population posed risks for the large plane to land, the Coast Guard said.

Five Fish and Wildlife staff and volunteers were on the island, along with five contractors who just completed building a warehouse, said Maxfield.

The island, 546 miles northwest of Honolulu, is home to numerous nesting sea birds, Maxfield said. It's early for albatross, but sooty terns, noddies, frigate birds and red-footed boobies are in abundance.

The island has a barracks building used as an office and sleeping facility, a boathouse and several boats.

The National Weather Service predicts Neki will hit French Frigate Shoals at 5 a.m. tomorrow with 100-mph sustained winds, according to forecaster Henry Lau.

 

;[Preview]  Hurricane Neki may hit Northwest Hawaiian Islands
 

Hurricane Neki is projected to make landfall in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands as early as Friday.

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