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Advisories issued as storm moves closer

East Hawaii residents should already be feeling the effects of Hurricane Erick.

The National Weather Service issued a high surf warning late Wednesday afternoon for east-facing shores of Hawaii Island. A swell expected overnight should bring advisory-level surf this morning, with warning-level surf expected to hit sometime today, forecasters said.

A flash flood watch is expected to go into effect later day, according to the weather service.

Erick was 480 miles southeast of Hilo as of 5 p.m. Wednesday and had weakened to a Category 2 cyclone, while Tropical Storm Flossie, 1,175 miles east of Hilo as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, continued to weaken, but is expected to re-intensify into a hurricane.

“Erick, it’s pretty close. We kind of know how it’s going to impact us,” said Chevy Chevalier, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Honolulu, on Wednesday afternoon. “We’re probably going to get some high surf on the east-facing and south-facing shores of the Big Island. We’re going to get some more rain. We’re going to get higher wind speeds on the Big Island, maybe up into Maui a little bit. And that might be the extent of it if it follows the current track.

“For Flossie, different story. We’re five days away. We’ll have to wait and see if there are some hardcore impacts from that one.”

Erick was packing maximum sustained winds of 105 mph with higher gusts and is forecast to continue slowly weakening. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 125 miles.

The storm continued to track westward at about 14 mph.

“It’s still a pretty strong storm. And it could go as far as the northern boundary of (the forecast track cone),” Chevalier said. “If that happens, then the impacts would increase on the Big Island, like higher surf, more rain and higher wind speeds.

“Rain is probably going to be the biggest factor out of this system, as far as the hardest impact.”

Flossie’s maximum sustained winds were 65 mph with higher gusts. Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 125 miles from the center.

Little change in strength is forecast during the next day or so, followed by some strengthening later this week. The storm was moving to the west at 16 mph.

“They’re actually expecting an increase to hurricane status by Friday morning, and it remains a hurricane until Sunday morning,” Chevalier said. “Then, hopefully, we start to see it weaken as it approaches the Big Island. If it continues on the track they have right now, it goes straight into the Big Island, but that’s a week away so it could vary quite a bit. If you look at the two storms, though, this one could have a chance of making greater impacts.”

The county closed Whittington and Punaluu beach parks in the Ka‘u District at noon Wednesday in anticipation of Erick’s approach.

“All camping permits and pavilion rentals for this weekend are canceled,” said Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno.

In addition, South Point Road was closed at 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“Only residents of South Point Road will have access until further notice,” Magno said.

Magno said the Hilo Bayfront parking lot will be closed this morning until further notice, which also closes the Mooheau Park bus terminal in downtown Hilo. The county’s Hele On buses will pick up passengers behind Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium on Manono Street in Hilo. Parking for bus users is between the Butler Building and Wong Stadium in the county’s Hoolulu Complex.

Magno warned residents to “secure canopy tents and loose items on your property” by today to prepare for the potential of increased winds.

The county also issued a statement urging residents whose homes are prone to flooding to go to hardware and home building supply stores to obtain sandbags.

“Placing sandbags around your home can help direct water away from your house,” the release said. “However, sandbags alone are not enough to protect a structure. Use plastic sheeting or tarps in addition to sandbags to prevent water from entering your home.

The county has tips on sandbag use and additional flood awareness safety information online at www.hawaiicounty.gov/pw-flood.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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