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In Hawaii, Residents And Officials Are Scrambling To Prepare For Hurricane Lane


In Hawaii, officials and residents are scrambling to prepare for possible landfall by a Category 4 hurricane. Hurricane Lane is moving toward the Hawaiian Islands with sustained winds of more than 150 miles per hour. State officials are advising residents to take the storm very seriously. NPR's Adrian Florido joins us now in Honolulu. Hey, Adrian.


CHANG: So this sounds like a massive storm. How certain are officials at this point that it will hit Hawaii?

FLORIDO: So at this point, the hurricane is a couple hundred miles south of Hawaii's southernmost island. That's the Big Island. And it's traveling west. But today, officials expect it to start turning north. And they're forecasting that the center of the storm is either going to pass directly over or near the main Hawaiian Islands beginning tomorrow.

So even if it's not a direct hit, officials say that people should expect hazardous conditions - strong winds, 10 to 15 inches, maybe 20 inches of rain in some areas, amounts of rain that could lead to landslides and of course dangerous surf that could damage coastal property.

CHANG: And at this point, how are state and federal authorities preparing for this storm?

FLORIDO: So Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency. All four counties in the state are opening shelters for people who may not feel safe staying in their homes. And because most of what comes into the state arrives by ship, transportation officials say they're making plans in case major ports are damaged. That's at a local level.

At a federal level, FEMA says that it is - FEMA, that's the Federal Emergency Management Agency - says it's spreading emergency food and water across the islands since Hawaii doesn't maintain a large stock of emergency supplies. And they say that they are also bringing in more staff to reinforce FEMA teams that were already here responding to earlier emergencies, including the volcano eruption earlier this year.

CHANG: Right. What about the residents? How are they preparing?

FLORIDO: So several ways. For one, people are stocking up on food and emergency supplies. Officials say they should stock enough to get them through two weeks. Officials also want people to assess whether their homes are safe. Can they withstand hurricane winds? And if they don't think they can, well, they're being told to seek shelter either with family or in one of the shelters being set up across the different islands.

CHANG: Now, it's been a very long time since a hurricane has actually hit Hawaii. Does it seem like the people there are really taking this seriously enough?

FLORIDO: So in the last day, people do seem to have begun taking it more seriously. It's important to note, Ailsa, that hurricanes are actually very rare here in Hawaii. There have only been two since Hawaii became a state in the 1950s, and the last one was in 1992. So there are a lot of people here who've never even lived through a hurricane.

Earlier, I stopped by a 24-hour grocery store. It was close to midnight last night actually. And the parking lot was packed. And the items in demand were bottled water, canned food and ramen. And in one of the aisles, the ramen aisle - that's where I met Doug Halili, who had just snagged one of the last boxes of instant noodles in the entire store.

And you got iced tea but no water.

DOUG HALILI: Yeah 'cause there's no water left here. So I'm going to go drop by 7-Eleven and pick up some water if it's still available.

FLORIDO: When did you decide maybe you should try to stock up on stuff?

HALILI: About an hour ago when they started to contemplate closing the schools. So then I knew it was kind of a little bit serious.

FLORIDO: Public schools across a lot of the island have closed, Ailsa. And on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is closest to the storm, the county mayor said that he is preparing for the very worst-case scenario, including possible mass evacuations.

CHANG: That's NPR's Adrian Florido in Honolulu. Thank you.

FLORIDO: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.