‘A double whammy': Oahu braces for Hurricane Douglas as COVID-19 cases surge

'A double whammy': Oahu braces for Hurricane Douglas as COVID-19 cases surge

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Mayor Kirk Caldwell urged residents to stay home this weekend if possible as Hurricane Douglas barrels toward the state and Oahu also grapples with a surge in new COVID-19 cases that health officials say are almost entirely linked to community spread.

“This is a double whammy: COVID-19, highest cases ever, and a hurricane,” Caldwell said. “We’re asking everyone to take this as seriously and stay home this weekend.”

The state saw a record 60 new coronavirus cases on Friday, all but two of which were on Oahu.

The new record comes as crowds flock to stores to get hurricane supplies, and emergency officials worry about how they’ll be able to offer safe evacuation shelters.

Oahu braces for Hurricane Douglas as COVID-19 cases surge

Hiro Toiya, director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management, said hurricanes usually bring a triple threat: Strong winds, heavy rains, and dangerous surf.

“In this instance, we have a fourth threat added to that and that’s COVID-19,” he said. “This is a tremendous challenge.”

Caldwell said the city is planning to open up to 25 storm shelters on Oahu if needed.

But he stressed those shelters will not be able to accept those who are positive for COVID-19 or those quarantining because of trans-Pacific travel. He said the state is responsible for sheltering those people.

Impacts from the storm are expected to begin late Saturday and early Sunday, and forecasters are warning residents to prepare for the threat of strong winds, drenching rains and dangerous surf.

This week, city crews were out clearing debris from streams and storm drains to prevent flooding.

“We’ve also begun the process of opening up some blocked stream mouths at the ocean or at the shoreline,” said Ross Sasamura, chief engineer at the Department of Facilities Management.

"Today we also had a crew out at Kaelepulu Stream."

For now, city buses will run according to schedule but that will likely change. “If trends continue the way they have, and the storm continues to track to Oahu the way it has, we may terminate service as of 12:01 Sunday morning,” said Roger Morton, general manager of the Oahu Transit System.

Caldwell said that because of the tourism lockdown, planning for this storm will be a bit easier.

“Usually we’d have someone from the tourism authority talking about how we’re going to handle almost 200,000 tourists on the island and how we’re going to handle them going to he airport during the onslaught of a hurricane,” he said.

“We have none of that. It made easier but the sad part is our economy is devastated.”

For more details on the expected impacts, click here.

This story will be updated.

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