Prepared, not panicked

LIHUE — Richie Ogata was bringing restaurant supplies to his Bamboo Sushi and Grill in Nawiliwili on Friday. Storm or no storm, he was preparing for the weekend crowd.

“It’s only a tropical storm,” Ogata said. “We track it, but we are not worried about a tropical storm. We would worry about another Iniki coming our way.”

People are still stocked up with water, propane and canned goods from preparing for previous storms that never really materialized this summer. Ogata said the lines aren’t going to get that bad unless residents are told there are 100 plus mph winds.

Still, Ogata doesn’t blame people for getting ready, because when it comes down to it, we don’t know what’s going to happen, he said. The difference today is there are more resources, if something does happen.

“I am pretty sure the island itself is more ready than what we used to be,” Ogata said. “We never had Costco, and we never had all these big chain stores before, and we survived.”

As Hurricane Ana passes by the main Hawaiian Island chain, residents say they’re prepared, not panicked.

“I’m ready,” said Omao resident Julie Halivand as she waited for her dog’s obedience class in Lihue to begin on Thursday. “You know, we just had that scare two months ago with Tropical Storm Iselle, and when I went to Costco, it was crazy, but yesterday, when I went to Costco, it was mellow.”

Although Hurricane Ana, the second named hurricane to develop in the Central Pacific this year, is expected to pass Kauai and Oahu on Sunday or Monday, Halivand said she is usually prepared before most storms head toward the island.

“I think I just kind of got ahead of it,” Halivand said. “I’ve already got stuff like bottled water and all that stuff — you just have to check your stock every once in a while.”

Poipu resident Cheryl Ann Farrell said she usually does what she can to prepare for storms that head toward the state. Before the weekend begins, Farrell said she plans to take a few extra precautions around her home to be on the safe side.

“We’re just going to secure loose plants and we’ve got gas in the car and propane, just in case,” Farrell said. “We have one screened-in lanai, so we’re going to pull everything away from the walls and put it up off the floor, so if it floods in there, it won’t ruin anything. We’re going to start doing a few things, but the forecasts keep changing, so some of it is kind of wait and see — it’ll still be windy and wet, so we prepare for that first.”

Lydia Ariola, who is on Kauai to help set up the new Longs Drugs and CVS/pharmacy store in Waipouli, said she will return home to Ewa Beach on Oahu but isn’t worried about the storm just yet.

“We’re coming back over here on Monday, so I think by the time we come back, it should be over,” Ariola said. “When we reach home, it should just be hitting.”

Kauai businesses reported some increased activity, but nothing compared to what they witnessed prior to the arrival of hurricanes Iselle and Julio in August.

“We just have a small, little rush only. Nothing major,” said Travis Kanehe, grocery manager at Times Supermarket in Lihue.

Kanehe said a steady stream of people were stocking up on the essentials, including bottled water and canned goods. However, the demand was “not as big as last time,” he said.

Vicky Agbayani, a supervisor at Ace Hardware in Lihue, agreed. Beginning Thursday, she said people were coming in mainly for propane, gas cans, batteries, flashlights and tarps.

“For the past few days, even last night, oh, we were pumping propane,” she said. “This morning, oh my, people coming in line already.”

By mid-day Friday, however, the rush had slowed, following news that the weather system, although strengthening, was tracking south of the islands. One man even brought back items he’d purchased the day before.

“Somebody came and returned the gas cans already,” Agbayani said. “I guess they watched the news.”

At Cost-U-Less in Kapaa, business began to pick up Wednesday, according to supervisor Danielle Contrades.

“They’re coming in, they are buying up a lot of water,” she said. “Actually, I think we’re running out.”

Walmart’s water and saimin shelves were empty Friday afternoon.

Erin Nesbitt, operations manager at Kauai Lumber, said that much like any storm event, customers were leaving with sheets of plywood to board up their windows.

Costco added staff and was bringing in 50,000 gallons of gas a day to meet demand. A staff member said people tend to get more aggressive as a hurricane approaches.

“All the waiting around has people get snappy,” he said. “For the last couple of days, I had to break up couple of fights at the station.”

According to a Home Depot staff member, the store has been selling more propane than usual. However, he said that it has not been as busy as it was for Iselle.

“People have already stocked up for Iselle, so now is not as busy, since it was not long ago,” he said.

Kmart manager Jarett Chytka said the store was limiting water sales to two cases per person. They have run out a number of times but are constantly getting replenished, he said.

Michel LaCroix said he lived through Hurricanes Iniki and Iwa, which walloped the islands in 1982 and 1992, and recalls the aftermath that both storms left behind.

“Iniki was scary,” LaCroix said. “I was in Koloa and we got trashed. We were building houses after Iwa — I was helping to build these two houses for my parents and friends. We were building this multi-million dollar house on the beach in Koloa, and they put all these hurricane-proof corners in this house, and well, guess what, the house would have stood, but the rocks that he built onto were taken away — his multi-million dollar house was just gone the next day.”

Though he does what he can whenever he hears of a storm approaching the island, LaCroix said, he mostly turns to prayer and meditation.

“If I had a house, I’d be taping it up right now, but I don’t live in house,” LaCroix said. “If I had a house, damn right I’d be taping it up because I know hurricanes now.”

Kosmas Studer, who is from Switzerland but has lived on Kauai for the past several months with his wife and young daughter in Kapaa, said this is the first storm that they have experienced.

“We were a little worried, but people told me it won’t be so bad, so we hope we’ll be OK,” Studer said. “What were told to do was to get some water and food, and our landlord will do the rest — they’re going to take care of us, I hope.”

•••

The Garden Island reporters contributed to the article, Darin Moriki, Chris D’Angelo, Tom LaVenture and Vesselina Jeliazkova.

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