Hawaii Braces for Direct Hit by Hurricane – First Time in 22 Years

All of Hawaii is under a hurricane warning as the state is expected to be hit by Hurricane Iselle, a Category 1 storm that had maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour as of late Thursday afternoon local time. As rain descended on the islands Thursday, locals were stripping supermarket shelves bare as they prepared for the oncoming storm. Schools and government offices shut down and thousands of sandbags were being filled while island ports were ordered to close. Hawaiians are readying for a potential one-two punch starting with Iselle with winds expected to reach at least 75 miles per hour, followed by Hurricane Julio, a Cat 2 storm which is about 900 miles behind the first system.

Forecasters are warning that Iselle could drop up to one foot of rain, cause life-threatening storm surges, flash flooding and mudslides. It is being forecast that Iselle will weaken somewhat by the time it makes landfall wherein it would be a strong tropical storm and not a hurricane. Just two days after Iselle makes landfall, Julio could strike the islands with its southern outer bands as it passes north as a tropical storm.

One of the biggest concerns with both storms is flash flooding as the Hawaiian islands are already rain-soaked. Mudslides in the populated, more mountainous regions are also a real possibility that people are being warned about. Forecasters are worried that the storm surge could occur during a high tide. If that does happen, it could push many feet of water onto dry land which could cause widespread flooding.

Direct hits by hurricanes are rare on Hawaii as only two hurricane eyes have struck the state since the 1950s. Those two storms came in from the south where water temperatures are warm enough to sustain large storms. Iselle, however, is approaching from the east, making it the first tropical cyclone coming from that direction to hit the state since the satellite era began in 1959. Hawaii has had its share of close calls however as several tropical cyclones have brushed the state in the past few decades.

Neil Abercrombie, governor of Hawaii, has already signed an emergency proclamation which will give his state government access to Hawaii’s disaster funds. State officials held a news conference Thursday to warn islanders to hunker down. Locals were also told that emergency crews and response teams were ready to deal with the aftermath of the heavy rainfall, fierce winds and flash flooding which may occur. Shelters were being opened across the state while transportation officials asked drivers to stay off the roads Friday.

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