By Maya Srikrishnan, Los Angeles Times
As Hawaii braced Thursday for two hurricanes — which would be the first to hit the state in 22 years — a magnitude 4.5 earthquake shook Waimea on the eastern shore of the Big Island, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said some areas may have experienced shaking, but no tsunami was expected. The earthquake hit at a depth of 7.9 miles.
There were no reports of damage from the 6:24 a.m. temblor, but the news heightened the concerns of island residents, who have been stocking up on food and water in anticipation of the approaching storms.
Category 1 Iselle is expected to hit Thursday evening local time and Category 2 Julio, which is traveling closely behind Iselle, is expected to hit over the weekend or early next week, the National Weather Service said.
Iselle was last reported to be 300 miles southeast of Hilo and moving toward the Big Island at a speed of 18 mph. It is expected to bring heavy rains, winds gusting up to 90 mph, and flash flooding in coastal areas. Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread to Maui on Thursday night and to Oahu and Kauai on Friday.
Hurricane Julio had maximum winds of 100 mph, forecasters said, and was about 1,230 miles southeast of Hilo.
Mary Roblee, owner of the Ala Kai Bed and Breakfast in Hilo, located about 400 feet from the ocean in the Puna Peninsula, said that in her 10 years on the Big Island, she expects these two storms to be “by far, the worst.”
“We’re very worried,” she said. “We are prepared to evacuate if we have to.”
She said a storm six months ago with 50-mph winds took out the shingles on her roof, and that she fears her roof will be completely destroyed by Iselle’s winds, let alone Julio’s.
Roblee said all her family’s outdoor furniture on her wraparound porch has been secured, and that she has stocked up on food, water, and other essentials. She said the local grocery store was “totally jammed and absolutely outrageous” on Tuesday.
Iselle is expected to hit Hawaii’s Big Island and Maui first, though “there is still some uncertainty in the exact track and strength” of the storm, the National Weather Service said.
The Big Island is under a hurricane warning, while Maui and Oahu are under tropical storm watches. A tropical storm warning was also issued for Kauai, state officials said. Public schools are closed on the Big Island, Maui, Molokai, and Lanai.
Roblee said that if she needs to evacuate, she’ll go to a friend’s house or to one of two local high schools that have been stocked and prepared for evacuees.
Roblee said her inn currently has four guests, all but one of whom have rescheduled their flights to leave earlier to avoid the storms.
Hawaiian Airlines waived reservation change fees and fare differences for passengers who wanted to alter their travel plans because of the hurricanes, according to the airline’s website.
On the other side of the Big Island, in Kona, Mary Dahlager, owner of Hale Ho’ola Bed and Breakfast, said they’ve never had a hurricane on that side of the island in the 12 years she’s been there.
“We’re all paying attention to the weather, but we’re not overreacting,” Dahlager said.
Nevertheless, stores in Kona were mobbed with people buying water and toilet paper, she said.
“Even my yoga studio is closed, but I think it’s just a precaution,” she said. “There are always severe storm warnings and we just say ‘ho hum.'”
Hawaii hasn’t been hit hard by a hurricane since 1992, when Hurricane Iniki pummeled the island of Kauai, killing six people.
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