Parks close as county hunkers down for Hector

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    A surfer catches a wave Monday at Honolii Beach Park north of Hilo.

  • In this satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the eye of Hurricane Hector can be seen as the storm moves toward Hawaii, Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018, at 00:30 UTC. A tropical storm watch was in effect Monday, Aug. 6 for waters south of the Big Island as Hector was expected to pass Tuesday night and Wednesday as it moved westward. (NOAA via AP)

The National Weather Service on Monday posted a tropical storm watch for the Big Island as Hurricane Hector continued its trek toward Hawaii.

As of 5 p.m., the Category 4 hurricane was 735 miles east-southeast of Hilo, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph with higher gusts. The storm was moving to the west-northwest at 16 mph.

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Melissa Dye, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said there is a “40 to 50 percent chance of tropical storm-force winds, and that’s between 39 and 73 miles an hour.”

“If we did get into any of those tropical storm force winds, it would likely be late (today) into Wednesday,” Dye said. “South Point is the main area we’re looking at, but it could be the southern third of the Big Island.”

As of Monday evening, Hector was forecast to pass south of South Point at about 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Dye said that strong winds “could allow vog to be transported to other areas of the island as well as to the smaller islands as Hector passes to the south.”

High surf of “anywhere from 15 to 20 feet” also is expected, Dye said.

“It would probably be similar to any other large surf events, covering roadways and the beaches and stuff,” she said. “But as far as other impacts beyond that, no. We’re not really concerned about storm surge with this one, either.”

The islands also are experiencing extremely high tides, known as “king tides,” between now and Friday.

“That complicates things a bit,” Dye said.

In addition, there is a hurricane watch for mariners in offshore waters beyond 40 nautical miles out to 240 nautical miles, including the portion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument east of French Frigate Shoals.

Civil Defense is advising residents to secure large objects in yards and prepare houses for strong winds and to secure all boats and aircraft.

Whittington, Punaluu and Milolii beach parks have been temporarily closed. All pavilion and camping permits through Friday are canceled.

In addition, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closing its Kahuku Unit in Ka‘u, about an hour south of the main park entrance.

“It’s too early to tell if we will close Kahuku on Thursday in anticipation of the hurricane,” HVO spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said. She added the personnel at the park’s main location, which has been closed because of seismic activity since May 11, “is preparing for the arrival of Hector.”

“One thing good about the closure is that we do not have any campers in the backcountry area,” she said. “Usually, we have to evacuate backcountry camping and parts of the park as the hurricane approaches, but we have one less thing to do as we prepare for the hurricane.”

Meanwhile, two tropical cyclones more than 3,000 miles away off the coast of Mexico are under scrutiny by Hawaii forecasters as well.

Hurricane John strengthened from tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane Monday. As of 5 p.m., maximum sustained winds were 75 mph with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is expected, and John is expected to become a major hurricane of at least Category 3 strength.

And Tropical Storm Ileana was weakening as of 5 p.m. Monday, with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Ileana was forecast to weaken and is expected to dissipate, perhaps as early as today.

A lava emergency meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. today at Pahoa High School gym was canceled because the county is concentrating on response to possible effects from Hector.

Residents are advised to have an emergency survival kit ready in case the storm causes road closures and power outages.

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The recommended items for a survival kit can be found on the American Red Cross website at www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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