With Category 4 Hurricane Florence bearing down on the Atlantic seaboard, Tropical Storm Olivia is being overshadowed in the press, but it’s still threatening to cause significant damage to the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Molokai, Maui, and the Big Island itself. Hawaii Governor David Ige has been busy tweeting and retweeting storm news and advice, as shown below. He has already requested federal emergency management funding from President Donald J. Trump. According to ABC News, in his letter to Trump, he specifically requested “direct federal support from Department of Defense assets for strategic airlift between the islands; temporary power generation at evacuation centers; technical assistance related to points of distribution and debris management action planning.” The governor also requested access to federal search and rescue resources, shelter resources, possible medical evacuations, and temporary power generation equipment.
At the time of this writing, Olivia is churning in the Pacific just off the East Coast of the islands. Rainfall amounts of 15 inches are possible through Wednesday night, with sustained high winds. According to Maui Now, non-essential offices are closed on Wednesday, with Maui shelters opening at 6 p.m. the same day.
Olivia was downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm status last week. If the storm had remained a hurricane, it would have been the first hurricane on record to hit the islands from the east. It also would have been the first time two hurricanes hit the islands in the same season since Hawaii just finished dealing with Category 5 Hurricane Lane in August. Per CNN, Lane dropped 52 inches of rain on the islands and triggered both flooding and mudslides, causing significant damage. Olivia is not expected to be anywhere near that level of storm, but it’s important to respect any significant weather event and be prepared. The silver lining in this story is that some of the prep for Lane may still be in place for Olivia, making things a bit easier for residents.
????Swells and surf generated by #Olivia will continue to build along east facing shores tonight, reaching damaging levels tonight and Wednesday. Surf heights along east facing shores are expected to reach up to 20 feet on #Oahu, #Molokai, #Maui and the #HawaiiIsland.
— Governor David Ige (@GovHawaii) September 12, 2018
Although Olivia is weakening as it nears the islands, sustained winds are creating heavy surf in the open ocean, and potentially damaging storm surge is expected along the state’s East Coast. Strong rains preceding the storm have already caused some damage on Maui Wednesday; the Hana Highway was closed Wednesday morning due to a downed tree and a mudslide in two different areas, KHON2 TV reports.
Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported early on Wednesday that Olivia had veered north, bearing down more on Maui than the Big Island.