‘The threat is real’: Residents urged to prepare for Olivia’s arrival

UPDATE 9:04 a.m.: State Department of Education officials on Monday night after Tribune-Herald deadline rescinded an order cancelling all after-school programs today. It will be business as usual at Big Island public schools.

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State and county officials advised residents to have 14 days worth of food and pet food, a full tank of gas and other emergency supplies ready as Tropical Storm Olivia is set to arrive either late tonight or early Wednesday.

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Gov. David Ige said everyone should “stay connected to … county emergency management and Civil Defense.”

“They will have the most current and accurate information,” he said.

Ige said the emergency proclamation he signed over the weekend allows state officials to be proactive in meeting the threat of the cyclone, which was downgraded Monday from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm.

“We have pre-positioned equipment and personnel along the Honokaa coast on Hawaii Island, in and around Hilo …,” Ige said.

Tom Travis, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator, said he appreciates “the community’s patience in preparing for the many disasters that we’ve experienced, even though past events have been better than we feared they would be.”

“The success we have in responding to a disaster is, in large part, based on the response of the community,” Travis said.

As of 5 p.m. Monday, Olivia was 380 miles east-northeast of Hilo, packing maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. The storm was moving west at 10 mph.

National Weather Service meteorologist Leigh Anne Eaton said the forecast track of Olivia has been “pretty consistent over the past several days.”

“That is a sign that the forecast does have a little more strength to it in terms of certainty, but there’s still that uncertainty in the exact point of where it’s going to cross or be the closest point to land area in the state in that Tuesday night, Wednesday morning time frame,” she said. “… For the Hilo side of the Big Island, it’ll be typical tropical cyclone effects they’ll be experiencing — strong winds, torrential downpours, flash flooding that does have life-threatening impacts to it, and high surf along the coast.”

The National Weather Service posted a high surf warning Monday for east-facing shores of the Big Island and Maui, and both islands are also under a tropical storm warning.

Surf along affected shores is expected to build up to 14 feet today, then rise up to 20 feet tonight.

All state Division of Forestry and Wildlife lands on the Big Island and in Maui County will close at noon today. That includes all forest reserves, natural area reserves, game management areas, wildlife sanctuaries, public hunting areas and Na Ala Hele trails.

All state parks in East Hawaii also will close at noon today. Closure of West Hawaii parks will be evaluated as the storm approaches.

The closures remain in effect until further notice, pending impact assessments.

All state small boat harbors will remain open during the storm.

The state Department of Education said in a release that all after-school activities for Big Island schools are cancelled for today, and parents and guardians should note that public school schedules and after-school programming might be modified across the islands this week as Olivia approaches.

All Big Island public schools and the University of Hawaii at Hilo are scheduled to hold classes today.

“The threat is real,” Eaton said.

“Now is the time to make sure all preparations are ready. The storm is coming toward the islands, and nothing is suggesting that it’s going to be veering away.”

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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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