Weaker Made­line skirts Hawaii but still a threat

Au­thor­i­ties urge res­i­dents to brace for heavy rain­fall

Baltimore Sun - - NATION - By Au­drey Mcavoy and Cathy Busse­witz

HILO, Hawaii — Fore­cast­ers on Wed­nes­day down­graded Hur­ri­cane Made­line to a trop­i­cal storm as it veered past Hawaii’s Big Is­land, but of­fi­cials re­it­er­ated warn­ings to pre­pare for heavy rain and strong winds.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice down­graded the storm as its winds de­creased to 70 mph. Its cen­ter wasn’t ex­pected to make land­fall on any Hawai­ian is­land.

Still, the Big Is­land and Maui County were un­der trop­i­cal storm warn­ings.

“It doesn’t mat­ter if it’s a strong trop­i­cal storm or a Cat­e­gory 1 hur­ri­cane,” said Eric Lau, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist with the weather ser­vice. “If you have 70 mph winds ver­sus 75 mph winds, it’s still a strong storm, so res­i­dents still need to be pre­pared.”

Mean­while, Hur­ri­cane Lester was about 1,000 miles from Hawaii and ex­pected to drop to a trop­i­cal storm by Sun­day.

The de­vel­op­ments came as mer­chants boarded up shop win­dows along Hilo Bay and shop­pers snatched sup­plies of food and wa­ter from gro­cery store shelves after ini­tially be­ing told the is­land could be hit by its first hur­ri­cane in 24 years.

“Hope­fully our roofs stay on, and our houses don’t float way or get blown away,” Big Is­land res­i­dent Mitzi Bet­ten­court said as she cov­ered walls of glass win­dows while the is­land was un­der the hur­ri­cane warn­ing. “It’s like, ‘Oh my God, are we go­ing to get flat­tened or what?’ ”

Else­where, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said Trop­i­cal Storm Her­mine had formed in the Gulf of Mex­ico and was cen­tered about 350 miles from Tampa, Fla. It was ex­pected to pick up speed and ap­proach the northwest Florida coast Thurs­day night.

A warn­ing was dropped about a trop­i­cal de­pres­sion that had been mov­ing to­ward North Carolina.

In Hawaii, Peggy Beck­ett, a re­tiree and bee­keeper, stopped at a Hilo su­per­mar­ket to pick up onion bagels, cheese, cold cuts and salad to add to her canned food at home. She also has a cooler with ice plus a por­ta­ble burner and bat­ter­ies to get her through the storm.

Not­ing the lines at the mar­ket, Beck­ett said peo­ple were get­ting pre­pared but weren’t pan­ick­ing.

“There’s al­ways a lot of dis­be­lief on the is­land that the storms will re­ally be as big and bad as fore­cast,” she said, not­ing that she and her part­ner had taken pre­cau­tions to pro­tect their bee­hives.

Gov. David Ige had is­sued an emer­gency procla­ma­tion for both storms, al­low­ing the state to quickly spend money. Big Is­land schools were closed and about a dozen fa­cil­i­ties were out­fit­ted as emer­gency shel­ters.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama is sched­uled to visit Oahu this week. The White House was track­ing the weather but didn’t an­tic­i­pate chang­ing Obama’s sched­ule.

AU­DREY MCAVOY/AP

Giuseppe Manone takes steps to pro­tect a store win­dow Wed­nes­day in Hilo, Hawaii.

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