Hurricane Felicia storms closer to Hawaii - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hurricane Felicia storms closer to Hawaii

Kevin Kodama Kevin Kodama
Mayor Billy Kenoi Mayor Billy Kenoi

HAWAII (KHNL) - Felicia is now only a category one hurricane and weakening. But as the threat of damaging winds drops, there is still worry over the rainfall the storm will bring to the islands.

Hurricane Felicia is now less than 800 miles away from the state and still on track to hit Hawaii Monday evening. Wind is just one of the problems Felicia could bring to the islands. The tropical cyclone could also send us dangerous surf and possible floods.

"These types of tropical cyclones carry a lot of moisture and when you put that moisture in our mountainous terrain a lot of rainfall can result. We're looking at the possibility of flash flooding in the start early next week," said Kevin Kodama, National Weather Service Hydrologist.

The Windward side of the Big Island is used to a lot of rain over the course of a year. But this storm could dump too much rain in any one area in a short period of time.

That could result in excessive runoff and flooding. Low lying areas and urban areas are at risk of being inundated with rainfall quickly.

An air force crew of 'Hurricane Hunters' set off early Saturday morning on a mission to fly directly into Felicia's eye. The Biloxi, Mississippi based 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flew 900 miles east of the Big Island where the hurricane was located.

Along with dropping weather instruments into Felicia to get important atmospheric data, the crew also penetrated the tropical cyclone four times and say it's weakening.

Still, their mission is an important one for the National Hurricane Center.

"Even though it may be a small storm, and even though they don't anticipate it's going to hit anything, they still want us to get there and check it out to populate their models and make more accurate forecasts," said Marc McAllister, Hurricane Hunters Pilot.

The Hurricane Hunters last flew in Hawaii during 2007's Hurricane Flossie.

Big Island Civil Defense held a briefing Saturday afternoon to outline its emergency strategy.

To combat flooding, crews have already cleared culverts and drainage areas, and sandbags are ready to go.

"We want everybody to plan for Monday and Tuesday to have a lot of rain, a lot of wind. We don't want people on the coastline and the shorelines because there'll be large surf," said Billy Kenoi, Big Island Mayor.

On Sunday, Civil Defense will meet again to discuss which shelters to open for people and pets.

Because of the expected heavy rain and high surf, the County of Hawaii has already announced some safety measures.

Starting Sunday at 2:30 p.m., all county beach parks between Whittington beach park in Ka'u and Laupahoehoe beach park in Hamakua will be closed through Wednesday morning.

Hookena beach park in south Kona is included in the closures.

Residents living along these areas should be on alert for sudden increases in surf heights.

Also on the Big Island, HI-5 recycling redemption centers at all county transfer stations will be closed starting on Monday, and reopening on Wednesday.

County transfer stations, green waste, and scrap metal facilities will remain open until further notice.

As county and private agencies prepare for the storm, many Big Island residents are also making sure their homes and properties will be able to handle the heavy rainfall from Felicia.

And while some are stocking up on supplies, there hasn't been a rush on the usual items snatched up during an emergency.

"So, far no calls from stores. The last time the stores were calling the radio station to say they had or didn't have items but so far this time they haven't. But that may change the closer we get and the more reports we get from Civil Defense," said Ben Rosete Kr. of KPUA radio.

A tropical storm watch is posted for the Big Island, which means the effects from a tropical storm, whether wind, rain or surf will be felt in the next 48 hours.

On Oahu, the City and County of Honolulu has activated its emergency operations center in preparation for the storm's arrival. Staff members are reviewing emergency plans, making sure everything is ready and operational.

The emergency center seemed quiet on Saturday, but that will change within the next day or so.

"This place is a beehive of activity, definitely. We have all of our emergency responders, taking calls in and updating us constantly on the situation, updating the common operating picture. Our biggest challenge right now is getting the word out that everybody should be preparing now. Not wait till we hear the sirens or not wait till there's a tropical storm watch," said Peter Hirai, Department of Emergency Management.

City crews have also been out over the past few days checking on streams and areas that are vulnerable to flooding.

If you'd like to track Hurricane Felicia, check our website, for updates. You can see the storm's current location as well as its forecast track.

You'll also find hurricane preparedness information, including a list of shelters, family disaster plans, and a hurricane checklist.

As the storm approaches, we want to see what you are seeing. Click on the 'Snap 808' or the 'See it, Snap it, Send it' icon on our website. You can submit video and pictures which we'll show on-air and online.

And stay with KHNL and K5 as we continue to track Felicia as it approaches the state. We'll have several crews on the Big Island starting early next week bringing you the very latest.

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