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Arizona volunteers travel to Hawaii to help residents prepare for hurricane

Loren, right, and Ruby Aquino, of Honolulu, load water into their car ahead of Hurricane Lane, Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018 in Honolulu. Hurricane Lane has weakened as it approaches Hawaii but was still expected to pack a wallop, forecasters said Wednesday. The National Weather Service said tropical-storm-force winds could begin as early as Wednesday afternoon on the Big Island. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones)

PHOENIX — A small group of volunteers from Arizona traveled to Hawaii with the American Red Cross on Wednesday to help residents prepare for and recover from an incoming hurricane.

Cassidy Penny, a spokeswoman with the American Red Cross, said four people from Arizona and one person from El Paso, Texas, were flying to the state ahead of Hurricane Lane, a category 4 storm that was expected to slam into the islands Thursday.

With winds exceeding 100 mph, Hurricane Lane could be the most powerful storm to hit Hawaii since Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Penny said the volunteers will be there to provide residents with shelter, food, emergency supplies, health services, “all these things that people need after experiencing something like a hurricane. All of the needs of the community will be met.”

She said the volunteers — who have “big hearts and just want to help people” — will provide physical as well as emotional support to survivors.

“When people experience large disasters where they lose their home, it’s an emotional time,” Penny said.

“We have disaster mental health professionals who are going and can provide support for people.”

The volunteers are expected to be stationed in Hawaii for two weeks, but Penny said that could be extended depending on what is needed. Additional volunteers could be sent as well.

Hawaii residents prepared for Hurricane Lane on Wednesday, emptying store shelves, claiming the last sheets of plywood to board up windows and draining gas pumps.

Unlike Florida or Texas, where residents can get in their cars and drive hundreds of miles to safety, people in Hawaii are confined to the islands and can’t outrun the powerful winds and driving rain.

Instead, they must stay put and make sure they have enough supplies to outlast prolonged power outages and other potential emergencies.

Living in an isolated island state also means the possibility that essential goods can’t be shipped to Hawaii if the storm shuts down ports.

“Everyone is starting to buckle down at this point,” Christyl Nagao of Kauai told The Associated Press.

“Our families are here. We have businesses and this and that. You just have to man your fort and hold on tight,” Nagao said.

“You’re stuck here and resources might not get here in time.”

The National Weather Service said Lane is expected to make a gradual turn toward the northwest Wednesday, followed by a more northward motion into the islands on Thursday.

“The center of Lane will move very close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday,” the weather service said.

Meteorologist Chevy Chevalier said Lane may drop to a Category 3 by Thursday afternoon but that would still be a major hurricane.

Public schools were closed for the rest of the week and local government workers were told to stay home unless they’re essential employees.

Shelters were being readied to open on Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. Officials said they would open shelters on other islands when needed.

Officials were also working to help Hawaii’s sizeable homeless population, many of whom live near beaches and streams that could flood.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Tom Travis said there’s not enough shelter space statewide. He advised those who are not in flood zones to stay home.

The U.S. Navy was moving its ships and submarines out of Hawaii. All vessels not currently undergoing maintenance were being positioned to help respond after the storm, if needed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

 

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