Hurricane Lane Is Beginning To Bear Down On Hawaii
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In Hawaii, Hurricane Lane is beginning to bear down. The Category 3 storm is soaking the Big Island. More than a foot of rain has already fallen. Residents of the state's largest city, Honolulu, are preparing for considerable wind and rain. Forecasters say the hurricane could also bring a storm surge of 4 feet with dangerously high surf. NPR's Adrian Florido reports from Honolulu.
ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: One of the homes at risk is Wally Choy's. He lives on the Big Island, but now he's in Honolulu, sitting on a windy porch at his friend's house. He just spoke on the phone with his wife who's back at their home.
WALLY CHOY: So she said up there is storming. It's all muddy, flooded - oh.
FLORIDO: Choy says his home was destroyed during the last hurricane to hit Hawaii, Iniki, in 1992. And for him, this has been a rough spring and summer.
CHOY: I mean, we just got over the lava up in the Big Island, right? Just had lava, now we're getting hurricanes - wow. Everybody getting bust up up there.
FLORIDO: Are you worried about your house?
CHOY: Oh, yeah, yeah.
FLORIDO: Choi is planning to stay in Honolulu through the storm but head home after Hurricane Lane passes.
CHOY: I just hope my animals and everybody's OK up there.
FLORIDO: Here at his friend's house, he says, he's not worried about himself. He's picked up water, beer and food. Officials are tracking Hurricane Lane's path closely and still can't say for sure whether it'll hit Hawaii directly or only pass nearby. But Steve Goldstein of the National Weather Service says that in terms of preparation, it doesn't really matter.
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: You do not need a direct strike to have major impacts from a hurricane this strong.
FLORIDO: Goldstein says in addition to the winds, the storm could dump up to 30 inches of rain on some parts of the state.
GOLDSTEIN: This will likely flood roadways, possibly wash out bridges and cause evacuations and necessitate water rescues. Rivers and tributaries could overflow their banks.
FLORIDO: The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, says the effects of Hurricane Lane on the Hawaiian Islands are just beginning.
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BROCK LONG: This is not just going to be over in the next 24 hours. This system is going to be with us for the next four or five days.
FLORIDO: The first island in the storm's path is the Big Island, where there are already reports of landslides and fallen trees. Governor David Ige has closed the state's ports to all but essential ship traffic. Hawaii's four counties have begun opening shelters, and its electric company, HECO, says it expects power outages, though local and federal officials say they're making preparations to restore power quickly. Karl Kim directs the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center and teaches at the University of Hawaii.
KARL KIM: I think this is a wakeup call. It's also a stress test.
FLORIDO: Kim says that Hawaii has generally taken its disaster preparedness seriously.
KIM: Still, there are gaps and inadequacies. And the first problem is that because it's been so long since a really devastating storm has hit Hawaii, there's that problem of the out of sight, out of mind.
FLORIDO: Kim says he's worried about the island's large homeless population and its non-English-speaking immigrants. And he says that despite changes to the building code after Hurricane Iniki destroyed some 1,500 homes in 1992, many older houses haven't been retrofitted to withstand a hurricane of Lane's strength. So Kim says there may be many people living in harm's way. Adrian Florido, NPR News, Honolulu. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.