Disasters converge on Hawaii

Today, Saturday July 25, Governor David Ige, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell, and officials from FEMA and a variety of county agencies and offices held a press conference today to discuss preparations in the Aloha State for the impact of Hurricane Douglas. It is currently a Category 1 hurricane, moving west toward the islands and poised to wreak havoc as early as tonight.

As of 11am today, Oahu (Honolulu County) is under a Hurricane Warning. The difference between a “Watch” and a “Warning” is that a watch means those conditions are possible.  A warning means that hurricane conditions are expected. Residents and officials are preparing for storm surge, dangerously high winds, flooding, landslides. Shelters open tomorrow. Hawaiian Airlines and others will be suspending services tomorrow, Sunday.

The arrival of Hurricane Douglas comes on the heels of two straight record-setting days of new COVID-19 cases and an uptick in hospitalizations in Hawaii. Mayor Caldwell said today that a new cluster of cases that were traced to sports bar is a factor in an increase in daily caseloads that has tripled in less than a week.

This was expected, not unlike Hurricane Douglas is now. We here in Hawaii are keen on disaster preparedness. Just ask anyone trying to buy rice, water, and toilet paper when a tropical cyclone enters the Central Pacific. We’ve done the same with COVID-19, and our caseload remains among the lowest in the US. We’re masked up. We’re social distancing. We’re staying home. We see these things coming.

But all of the efforts in the world can only mitigate damage from circumstances beyond our control. That might be an airborne steel street sign in 90mph winds in a hurricane. Or it might be a group of friends gathered three zip codes over to watch a sporting event without common sense social distancing and masking during a pandemic.  

Hawaii is currently beset by three disasters: natural (hurricane), public health (COVID-19), and economic (record unemployment due to the pandemic). One fortunate coincidence during a time that looms misfortune is the fact that there is only a fraction of Hawaii’s normal summertime visitor count in the Aloha State due to the pandemic. This frees space in emergency shelters and conserves resources needed during any disaster, natural or otherwise. It greatly decreases the possibility of COVID-19 spread.

Officials and pundits contend daily with the issue of what Hawaii tourism might look like after COVID-19. There are high hopes and grim predictions. But with Hurricane Douglas bearing down on Hawaii, the more important question right now is “what will Hawaii look like on Monday?”

We here at Aloha Hawaii Travel are looking for answers on the ground, and we will update visitors here on the blog and on the Hawaii Vacation Connection Podcast as long as the lights stay on. For now, it’s safe to say that, on Oahu at least, everything is closed at least until Monday.

Aloha, and stay safe!