Oahu prepares for Lester: ‘We’re not letting our guard down’

Update: With Lester becoming less of a threat to the islands, the city has decided not to activate the Emergency Operations Center, and Hanauma Bay remains open at this time, as are all Oahu parks.

With Lester passing the islands, currently as a category 2 hurricane, City and County of Honolulu officials are urging the public to be careful.

As of 5 a.m. Saturday, forecasters say hurricane or tropical storm conditions will remain just north of the islands, though large and dangerous surf is expected through the weekend.

Officials held off on announcing city closures and emergency shelters, and that likely will not happen now.

“This is Labor Day weekend, one of the last hurrahs before the end of summer. We have 205 campsites, each campsite has permits for up to 10 people. That’s a lot of people,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. “We had a discussion if we should cancel those permits at this point. We don’t want to do that. We want to allow people to continue to plan to camp, but we want to ask those campers to pay attention to their local media to find out and be ready. It’s going to be a wet weekend.”

Several events were canceled ahead of Lester. View the full, updated list here.

Ocean safety officials are warning inexperienced beachgoers to stay out of the water and all people to stay off rocky ledges, especially along east-facing shores. Waves could reach 25 feet Saturday.

“There’s high surf on the east side. We expect surges, and these surges are increased at the high tide. High tides are at 5:15 a.m. and about 5:15 p.m.,” said Mark Rigg, director of the Honolulu Emergency Services Department. “Also keep in mind the high winds can cause things to blow, typically when people go to the beach with their surfboards, their stand-up boards, their canoes and their kayaks. Pay special attention to your watercraft, because those things can blow away too.”

A high surf warning is currently in effect for exposed east-facing shores as surf was expected to build to warning levels Friday night and remain into Saturday.

We also could see significant shore break and potential impacts to coastal properties and infrastructure.

State officials are warning folks to stay away from the Makapuu tide pools, which remains closed. The scenic spot below Makapuu Lighthouse Trail is beautiful but extremely dangerous, especially during high surf.  Back in July, a father and daughter visiting from the mainland died after being swept out to sea by large waves at the tide pools.

Meanwhile North Shore residents are getting ready, not just for the surf, but for the wind and possible power outages.

“So we get some good waves and stuff, but it’s always important to stay prepared. We’ve been getting a couple of generators ready and water, supplies,” said resident Tai Van Dyke.

“We’re taking the wind chimes down and any loose furniture in the yard that could blow away, but besides that, we’re not too worried,” said resident Jack Lutey.

Kamehameha Highway, Kaaawa
Kamehameha Highway, Kaaawa

The Hawaii Department of Transportation will be making emergency repairs to prevent erosion on Kamehameha Highway near Kaaawa.

Work is scheduled to take place Saturday, Sept. 3, through Monday, Sept. 5, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

If weekday work is necessary, work hours will be adjusted to accommodate the morning commute. Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 6 work will start at 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekdays. No overnight work is planned. No weekend work is expected after the initial holiday weekend.

The repairs will require the temporary closure of the northbound or makai lane on Kamehameha Highway near Kanenelu Beach. Traffic will be contraflowed in the southbound or mauka lane.

Motorists should allow extra time when traveling through the area.

“If Lester were to take a little bit more track to the left, we would fall within more impacts. We’re not letting our guard down,” said Caldwell. “We don’t want people to let their guard down. They become fatigued and say, ‘We don’t need to worry.’ We need to pay attention. You saw with Darby, people were driving around Sunday evening and getting stuck on the H-1 and then getting upset, because they’re stuck on the H-1 when we repeatedly said through the weekend, ‘Only go out if you absolutely have to,’ and yet the freeway was choke with cars on Sunday evening.

“I ask the residents from the City and County of Honolulu to take precautions if they’re asked to do so, so they don’t inconvenience themselves or put their life or their family member’s life at risk.”

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