Hurricane Douglas bears down on Hawaii as pandemic flares

Hurricane Douglas bears down on Hawaii as pandemic flares

Hurricane Douglas bears down on Hawaii as pandemic flares

HONOLULU — The first hurricane to threaten the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic is presenting new challenges to Hawaii officials long accustomed to tropical storms.

For example, how do you secure enough shelter space when people have to stay at least 6 feet (1.8 metres) apart from one another? What happens when someone shows up at a shelter with a fever?

Midday Friday, Hurricane Douglas was 785 miles (1,260 kilometres) southeast of Hilo. It was packing maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph), making it a Category 3 hurricane.

It’s expected to weaken as it passes over cooler water. But meteorologists warn strong winds, heavy rainfall and dangerous surf could afflict the entire state beginning Saturday night.

Douglas is expected to be either a Category 1 hurricane or a strong tropical storm when it nears the eastern end of the state.

The National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch for both the Big Island and Maui County, meaning hurricane conditions are possible in those areas within the next 36 to 48 hours.

The storm approaches as Hawaii grapples with increasing COVID-19 numbers. On Friday, the state reported 60 newly confirmed cases, its highest single-day increase since the pandemic began.

“I never thought in 30 years of doing this I’d be answering medical questions,” said John Cummings, the public information office for Honolulu Emergency Management, underscoring the odd position authorities have found themselves in.

Unlike other hurricane-prone states like Florida, where residents pile into cars to evacuate when storms approach, it’s impractical to leave Hawaii to get away from a storm. Shelter space is also limited.

So, as is typical, local authorities are urging most people to shelter at home if they can. Those living in homes built according to code after 1995 should be “pretty good to go,” Cummings said.

He recommended staying with friends and family if home isn’t safe. Seek refuge in an interior room, he said. Going to a city-run shelter should be a last resort, he said.

At shelters, evacuees will have their temperatures checked for signs they may be infected with the coronavirus. People who have been quarantining themselves, either because they recently travelled to Hawaii from out of state or because they have been exposed to someone with the virus, may go to a shelter if their housing situation is unsafe.

Those with high temperatures or a travel history will either be isolated at that shelter or taken to a different site, Cummings said.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said that in “non-pandemic world” the city prepares 10 square feet (1 square meter) per person at shelters. But in order to have 6 feet (1.8 metres) of physical distancing between people, it must allow 60 square feet (6 square meters) per person or family.

“We need more shelter space. And with more shelter space, we need more people to staff those shelters. And we’re working on that right now,” Caldwell said. The city plans to announce a list of shelters on Friday.

Hawaii leaders have been talking to the Federal Emergency Management Agency about potentially housing evacuees in hotels, but nothing concrete has been decided yet. Caldwell said such an arrangement may not come together in time for Douglas’ arrival but might be in place for the next storm.

Many of Hawaii’s hotels have empty rooms or are completely closed because the pandemic has shut off most travel to the islands.

State officials have been urging residents for months to incorporate hand sanitizer and face masks into their usual emergency kits containing two weeks worth of food, water, batteries and other supplies.

Caldwell urged people to get groceries for those who can’t afford to go shopping for 14 days of food at once when so many residents are out of work because of the pandemic.

“It’s the time to look at ourselves as one big ohana working with each other,” Caldwell said, using the Hawaiian word for family.

In Hilo Thursday, Ace Hardware supervisor Adrian Sales reported a “significant uptick” in people seeking lanterns, propane and other supplies.

“We’re out of the butane stoves already, and sandbags have been going too,” Sales said. “It’s a little hard to keep things on the shelves.”

Food shoppers have been slower to materialize at the The Locavore Store in Hilo.

Owner Catarina Zaragoza predicted people will start buying up toilet paper and water if the storm looks threatening and gets closer.

“So many of our storms dissipate before they get here, so I think if we’re going to see that kind of uptick it probably won’t be till later in the weekend,” she said.

People stocked up on supplies early on in the pandemic, but Zaragoza doubts that’s the reason people weren’t buying.

____

Associated Press journalist Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press

hurricane

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

county
County of Paintearth highlights from the Nov. 24th meeting

The County is moving to harmonize several of its policies and bylaws

Alberta premier Jason Kenney declared a public health state of emergency Tuesday and sweeping new measures as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Kenney declares state of public health emergency as COVID-19 cases rise

High schools shift to online learning, businesses face new restrictions

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

A long-time Castor Resident is on the move. Luella Kowalsky, who has lived in the Town of Castor since 1977, is moving to an assisted living facility in Innisfail to be closer to family. Kevin J. Sabo photo
Long-time Castory resident Luella Kowalsky is leaving the community

Kowalsky will be closer to two of her kids, who live in the Sundre area

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, announced the province surpasses one million COVID-19 tests Friday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up by 100 in last 24 hours

Most central Alberta communities under province’s enhanced measures list

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
VIDEO: How do the leading COVID vaccines differ? And what does that mean for Canada?

All three of the drug companies are incorporating novel techniques in developing their vaccines

Ilaria Rubino is shown in this undated handout image at University of Alberta. Alberta researcher Rubino has developed technology allowing mostly salt to kill pathogens in COVID-19 droplets as they land on a mask. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Alberta
Alberta researcher gets award for COVID-19 mask innovation

The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval.

Russ and Luanne Carl are sharing about their experiences of fighting COVID-19 this past summer. (Photo submitted)
Stettler couple opens up about COVID-19 battle

Luanne and Russ Carl urge others to bolster personal safety measures amidst ongoing pandemic

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Claudio Mastronardi, Toronto branch manager at Carmichael Engineering, is photographed at the company’s offices in Mississauga, Ont., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. As indoor air quality becomes a major concern in places of business, HVAC companies are struggling to keep up with demand for high quality filtration systems. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Business is booming for HVAC companies as commercial buildings see pandemic upgrades

‘The demand right now is very high. People are putting their health and safety ahead of cost’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Long-awaited federal rent subsidy program for businesses hurt by COVID-19 opens today

The new program will cover up to 65 per cent of rent or commercial mortgage interest

Most Read