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Storm-tested East Hawaii residents take Lane in stride

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Tammy Lafita shops in the frozen section of Cost-U-Less Wednesday in Hilo.

  • Richard Pawlicki of Hawaiian Paradise Park uses a metal detector to look for lost items in the rain Wednesday at Richardson Ocean Park.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Chacey Midel, 10, fishes with her uncle, Bryan Silva, in the rain Wednesday at James Kealoha Beach Park in Keaukaha.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Chacey Midel, 10, fishes with her dad, Chad Midel in the rain Wednesday at Kealoha Beach Park in Keaukaha.

Despite the approach of Hurricane Lane, residents on the east side of the Big Island were largely unperturbed Wednesday.

“We’re pretty much already prepared here,” said Mountain View resident Charley Mapa.

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“I mean, we already had to stock up for that other one two weeks ago,” he continued, referring to Hurricane Hector, which passed mostly harmlessly south of Hawaii earlier this month.

Hurricane Lane’s path is less fortunate.

On Wednesday, the Big Island was under a hurricane warning, with the storm predicted to travel north-northwest off the island’s western shores, a route that promised to envelop the island in powerful winds, rain and surf.

Many residents on the east side were confident the island’s volcanoes would shield the area from the worst of the storm.

“There’s five hurricanes I’ve been through, and they all turned out not to be all that,” said Hilo resident Nicholas Stewart.

Stewart said the only significant preparation he has made in the face of the hurricane has been to stockpile water in case of emergency.

“I’m hoping the volcano will protect us this time,” Stewart said.

Stewart’s home was destroyed by the Kilauea volcano eruption in lower Puna, forcing him to rent a residence in Hilo.

“Which, I guess, is why I haven’t made that many preparations,” he said.

Mapa, while shopping at The Home Depot, said he wasn’t buying materials to reinforce or repair his home, but rather to do house work on his ohana.

“If I can’t do work outside, may as well do work inside,” he said.

Lehua, a Hawaiian Paradise Park resident who declined to provide a surname, had similar plans. After stocking up on bottled water and nonperishable foods on Tuesday, she returned to town Wednesday to pick up cleaning supplies.

“I’m stuck inside, so I might as well clean,” Lehua said.

Away from Hilo’s retail areas, residents were similarly nonchalant about Lane, despite the constant rain throughout Wednesday.

At Richardson Ocean Park in Keaukaha, several people bobbed in the water as they tried to catch the breaking waves on surfboards and bodyboards Wednesday morning.

Along the horizon, Hilo was hiding in the mist while Richard Pawlicki of Hawaiian Paradise Park was using a metal detector in the sand as it began to sprinkle.

Pawlicki said he hunts for trinkets on the beaches daily, and Wednesday, as Hurricane Lane made its way toward the state, was no different.

Although Pawlicki said he wasn’t too concerned about the impending storm, he conceded there might be “a little concern” for his 16-year-old son “because he still likes to play in the yard, even when there’s a storm.”

“The storm? The storm is a blessing, and I mean that sincerely. I garden and stuff; it’s a blessing,” Pawlicki said. “It’ll change all of the floor of the bay. It’ll bring up the sea glass in Hilo … and it’ll all wash up the better for the waves and the wind. And it kind of clears the air, cleans everything up. All the old things that need to get moved, get moved, and we clean up afterwards and move on.”

Near Carlsmith Beach Park, Hilo resident Chad Midel was fishing for oama with his family ahead of Lane’s arrival.

Midel, who works in construction, said his jobsite was closed Wednesday and his children, ages 10 and 17, were out of school. The family prepared ahead of time, stocking up with some water, some canned goods and gas.

Despite Wednesday’s relatively mild weather, Midel and other residents still had concerns about the hurricane.

“It’s the closest one so far that I know of,” Midel said. “Sometimes, Hawaii people, we take (hurricanes) for granted because every time we get warnings, it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s just going to rain, the usual.’ We’re used to that. But this one was pretty close.”

“I never take any storm lightly,” said Hilo resident Harriet Nakasone.

Nakasone said her husband, a now-retired county worker, always had to work during the island’s severe storms, so she had to stay home and secure her home.

Nakasone expected Lane to bring a certain amount of rain and wind, but noted that the weather can be unpredictable and could be more severe than expected. Because of that, Nakasone said she was “a little bit nervous,” but was confident that she made sufficient preparations, buying a solar-powered lantern and additional food Wednesday.

Kaumana resident Tammy Lafita was less sanguine.

“I’m nowhere near prepared,” Lafita admitted Wednesday, explaining she had not done all of recommended preparations she saw suggested online — she had not installed hurricane straps nor had she boarded up her windows. However, she said her home, further inland than many on the island, might be sheltered from the worst of the weather.

“I am a little worried about it, especially when the storm comes so quickly,” Lafita said.

Lafita did say she prepared by buying food, as well as other essentials such as diapers and baby formula, earlier in the week.

Misty Carver, an employee at Ace Hardware in Hilo, said there was an influx of shoppers Wednesday seeking hurricane supplies.

“We’ve sold a lot of generators,” Carver said, although she said propane stoves, tarps, batteries, lanterns and flashlights also were popular items sold.

Like many of her shoppers, however, Carver admitted to being “not too worried” about the impending storm.

While many residents based their lack of concern on prior experience with hurricanes, at least two visitors to the island were equally at ease.

Duncan Mitchell of Bridlington, England, and his friend, Anthony Strong of Newcastle upon Tyne, England, were concluding a nearly monthlong stay in Hawaii at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, having arrived Tuesday.

Mitchell said he was enjoying the rain Wednesday, which “cooled it down a bit. Now it’s nice.”

The duo spent a week in Waikiki before embarking on a cruise through the islands, eventually returning to Hilo this week.

They weren’t daunted by the impending hurricane, although Wednesday’s rain did force the pair to return to their hotel earlier than planned.

“What will be, will be,” Strong said.

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Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.