Mountainous volcanoes and a massive ocean could double team to ease the impact of two major storms roaring toward Hawaii.
Hurricane Iselle is scheduled to tear into the islands Thursday and Friday. On it’s heels, Tropical Storm Julio is setting up as a Sunday-Monday event, National Weather Service meteorologist Anthony Reynes said Wednesday.
“If that happens it will be something the state of Hawaii has never seen before,” Reynes said.
But Reynes also said storms forming in the eastern Pacific generally run out of gas before they make it to the islands. Iselle has been a furious storm, but even Iselle is struggling to maintain it strength and is expected to reach the islands as a low-level hurricane or a tropical storm. And when it arrives, the terrain of the Big Island, Hawaii’s largest and most eastern island, could help break the storm up further with its miles-high volcanoes.
“The Big Island has two huge volcanoes, something that Iselle certainly will feel,” Reynes said.
Still, Iselle is expected to have a severe impact across the entire state.
“We are gearing up for very heavy rains, possibly tropical storm force winds or worse, and strong surf,” Reynes said. “We are hoping the event is on the tropical storm level, not the hurricane level.”
Early Wednesday, the center of Iselle was about 945 miles east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of about 90 mph. Behind it, Tropical Storm Julio loomed.
Julio remains a bit too far away to determine it’s impact, Reynes said. It could drift north and become a non-issue, he said.
National Park Service officials at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, like most Hawaiians, were preparing for the worst.
“We’re all dusting off our hurricane plans and securing the facility, loose objects, and working through what we need to do, just in case,” says Scott Pawlowski, chief of cultural and natural resources at the Pearl Harbor monument.
On Oahu, home to Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, residents and tourists were making a run on water, canned food and other supplies — a familiar ritual for locals accustomed to the risks of living on remote islands in the Pacific.
“I have been through two hurricanes and a dock strike, and it’s better to be prepared than not,” David Fell of Waimanalo, a section of Honolulu, said.
“You really can’t tell what’s going to happen. According to local legend, hurricanes never hit the Big Island, but we’ll see. It might be a first,” Fell said. “If it bypasses the Big Island and tracks off Oahu, things could get pretty interesting around here really quick.”
Chris Pruett of Waikiki was anticipating a silver lining in that big storms bring surfers to the islands: “It tends to generate good waves,” he told the Associated Press.
Contributing: Mike Tsukamoto in Honolulu