Wednesday | June 29, 2016
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Banyan Drive hotels brace for Iselle, Julio

One of Hilo’s Banyan Drive hotels has decided to evacuate its guests to emergency shelters as innkeepers on the picturesque and historic Waiakea Peninsula street make contingency plans for the expected arrival today of Hurricane Iselle.

Aaron Whiting, manager of Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel, said guests of the family-owned four-story hotel are being directed to emergency shelters at Hilo and Waiakea high schools.

“This is an older construction building,” Whiting said this morning. “The safety of our guests is our main concern.”

The evacuation is for Thursday night only, at this point.

“If we don’t have power tomorrow (Friday), we can’t open back up,” he said. “We’re playing everything by ear right now.”

Whiting said the majority of the guests have rental cars and have been given directions to the emergency shelters. The others, he said, will be transported by bus.

At Uncle Billy’s General Store, a sign posted to the front window said is closing at 2 p.m. or earlier today due to weather conditions and may remain closed on Friday.

Also evacuating its rooms and employees is the Hilo Seaside Hotel on Banyan Way.

At the Hilo Naniloa Hotel, it’s business as usual, according to an employee who asked not to be identified.

“We’re staying open and providing shelter for anyone who needs it,” the employee said.

The employee said the Naniloa has about 150 guests and is currently at about 50 percent occupancy. No guests were to be found in the hotel’s lobby late Thursday morning.

“We’re bringing in the deck furniture; the pool is closed,” the employee said. “If worst comes to worst, we’ll evacuate to the Crown Room.” The Crown, which has gone mostly unused as of late, is an entertainment venue on the property that holds about 350 for concerts.

The eight-floor, 268 room Hilo Hawaiian Hotel is fully booked for tonight, said a hotel employee who also requested anonymity.

“We are taking reservations for Friday night,” the employee said. Asked about preparations for the arrival of Hurricanes Iselle and Julio, the latter of which appears headed for a weekend arrival in Hilo, the employee pointed to a couple of posted notices. One noted the emergency shelters at Hilo and Waiakea high schools; the other stated that due to possible power outages, dinner is to be served early, between 2 p.m.-6 p.m. Thursday.

Unlike the lobbies of Uncle Billy’s and the Naniloa, which both resembled ghost towns, there were numerous guests in the Hilo Hawaiian’s lobby this morning, most glued to tablet computers and smartphone screens.

Kyle Yamamoto, wife Suzanna and son Evan, of Moraga, Calif., arrived Wednesday for a five-day stay on the Hilo side and are scheduled to go to Kona for another week.

“They’ve given us the warning letter, a flashlight, and basically advised us that between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for this evening, we should be in the hallways,” Suzanna Yamamoto said.

The Yamamotos said staffers at the hotel “have been great” about keeping guests informed of developments related to the dual storm threat bearing down on the Big Island.

‘They’ve been very kind and are reassuring us that, hopefully, it will just touch down and keep moving,” Suzanna Yamamoto said.

Email John Burnett at


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