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Hawaii Tropical Storm Update


Hurricane Lane, which has been threatening Hawaii, is now a tropical storm. It is still more than 100 miles south of Oahu. People in Hawaii are relieved but are still dealing with major problems. NPR's Greg Allen joins us now from Honolulu. Greg, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: I gather the biggest problems are on, as they call it, the Big Island - Hawaii.

ALLEN: Yeah, that's right, Scott. We still have winds of 65 miles per hour and, you know, high surf. So this storm is still something to contend with. The biggest problem, of course, is rain. On the Big Island, it's been raining heavily now for three days. We've gotten over 40 inches of rain in some areas, and that's just caused all kinds of problems. We've had dozens of people rescued.

I was reading about one family today in the Honolulu paper, who was in a vacation rental, that had to be floated out of their homes wearing life jackets. The roads are closed on the island because of landslides. People are being told to stay home. Hopefully, this will all let up a little bit as that storm moves west - moves away from Hawaii today.

SIMON: What about elsewhere in Oahu where you are - much impact from the storm?

ALLEN: You know, it's been actually fairly mild here. We've been getting some rain - gusty winds, of course. Everybody's moved - you know, taken efforts here to board up houses and move furniture inside - but nothing like they've seen on the Big Island. Yesterday, because of concern about the high surf and riptides, officials tried to keep people off the beaches and out of the water. But they had little success. We had lots of surfers out, people on the beaches swimming. By the end of the day, it was downgraded to a tropical storm. And officials were visibly relieved. They had a news conference. Here's what Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell had to say.


KIRK CALDWELL: For me, I have no regrets having gone through this. I think we did everything we should have done. And if we would've not done it, and Lane would have been a direct hit, think about what people would have said then. But now it's about getting back to the business of enjoying life on this incredible - in this incredible state on the island of Oahu.

SIMON: And, of course, Greg, Hawaii welcomes visitors from all over the world. I wonder how many visitors in Hawaii have been affected.

ALLEN: Right. Well, that's the big concern, of course, now - will be the economic hit on all this. I've been surprised by the number of people that are here. Although there were some flights canceled, the airports have remained open. And many flights were coming in really to get the planes here to ferry people off the island. The mayor said there are some 200,000 visitors on the island. That sounds reasonable to me. There's lots of people here from all over the United States and Australia and Japan, but that's still many fewer than usual. The businesses all over the islands have been closed. We expect that they'll begin reopening today. The mayor said that he'll have lifeguards back on the beaches this weekend - I think certainly by Sunday.

So they hope to get things back to normal here as much as they can. They're already talking about resuming trash pickup. And on Monday, they expect to have schools back. Of course, the big issue there is that they've been using these schools for shelters. So today they've got buses going around to try to start taking people from shelters home. A big issue here has been bus service. The bus service was suspended. Now buses are starting up again today. You've got to get people back to work, back to this whole service, tourism economy going again. And that's really one of the biggest concerns for the mayor and other officials here I think.

SIMON: NPR's Greg Allen in Honolulu, thanks so much.

ALLEN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF RENAME'S "IN THE FUTURE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's Miami correspondent, Greg Allen reports on the diverse issues and developments tied to the Southeast. He covers everything from breaking news to economic and political stories to arts and environmental stories. He moved into this role in 2006, after four years as NPR's Midwest correspondent.