Emergency shelters will open Thursday while state offices across the Big Island will close as residents brace for a direct hit from Hurricane Iselle.
A Hawaii County official said the 11 shelters will open at noon.
Residents using the shelters should bring water, food and medication with them, he said.
Hawaii County offices, state offices and courthouses will close at noon Thursday and remain closed through Friday. Essential employees related to crucial operations will remain at work, the county said.
County and state parks are closed until further notice.
The state Department of Education closed all Big Island schools for Thursday and Friday, and University of Hawaii and Hawaii Community College campuses will also close through Friday.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said the county contacted residents in low-lying areas to request they evacuate.
Mandatory evacuations were not planned.
Oliveira said residents across the isle should be prepared, and noted that strongest winds may occur toward the northeast side of the storm.
On Wednesday, a Hawaii County Fire Department helicopter made an emergency landing at Pololu Valley due to mechanical problems.
Battalion Chief Warren Sumida said it was making the flight as a “preventable measure” to urge people living or camping in high-risk areas to leave or see if they need to be evacuated. No one was injured, and a backup helicopter is available, he said.
Expecting the storm to have largely moved past the islands by Saturday, election officials were planning to go ahead with the primary.
“Every county, including the state, (is) at this time planning to hold a primary on Saturday,” said Rex Quidilla, state Office of Elections spokesman.
Pat Nakamoto, county elections administrator, said generators are on standby for polling places if power is not restored in time.
She said there are enough generators for each of the 41 polling places and the counting center.
“My understanding is, if all 41 need generators, we will be able to get them there,” Nakamoto said.
Walk-in voting sites will remain open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday is the last day for walk-in voting.
Nakamoto said her office was receiving more phone calls than normal regarding early voting.
As of 10 a.m. Wednesday, the county received 14,540 mail ballots and 4,209 ballots from early walk-in voting.
The Coast Guard instructed all pleasure craft to seek sheltered waters, and announced that all oceangoing commercial vessels and barges over 200 tons are expected to leave Hilo by 4 a.m. and Kawaihae by 7 a.m.
American Airlines cancelled flights between Kahului, Maui, and Los Angeles for Thursday.
Hawaiian Airlines expects to make a decision Thursday afternoon whether to cancel flights, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also closed its backcountry areas.
Hele-On buses were scheduled to operate as normal Thursday and Friday, though the mass transit agency was warning riders that cancellations or delays may occur with short notice.
The Democratic Party’s Grand Rally is also cancelled for Friday.
Senior nutrition and recreation programs are cancelled Thursday and Friday.
Assistant Police Chief Marshall Kanehailua said Wednesday there have been discussions at the Emergency Operations Center about notifying homeless people about the storm.
“We’ll be posting, of course, notifications about the shelter openings with officers on the beat,” he said. “When they do come across those individuals, we’ll be notifying them of the impending hurricane and what shelters are open.”
The Salvation Army released a written statement Wednesday that they’re “prepared to respond with community assistance as needed on the major Hawaiian Islands.”
“The public is encouraged to help in advance by supporting emergency disaster services efforts via monetary donations via our website …,” said Major Mark Gilden, Salvation Army’s Hawaiian & Pacific Island Division’s business secretary. “One-hundred percent of the donated funds will be used to support our emergency disaster services in Hawaii.”
Online donations may be made at www.salvationarmyhawaii.org.
Storm preparedness information can be found at http://www.scd.hawaii.gov.
Staff Writer John Burnett contributed to this story.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.
Storm shelter locations
• Laupahoehoe School, 35-2065 Old Mamalahoa Highway, Laupahoehoe
• Kohala High & Elementary, 54-3611 Akoni Pule Highway, Kapaau
• Kealakehe High (pet friendly), 74-5000 Puohulihuli St., Kailua-Kona
• Konawaena High (pet friendly), 81-1043 Konawaena School Road, Kealakekua
• Hilo High (pet friendly), 556 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo
• Waiakea High (pet friendly), 155 W. Kawili St., Hilo
• Keaau High (pet friendly), 16-725 Keaau-Pahoa Road, Keaau
• Pahoa High & Intermediate (pet friendly), 15-3038 Pahoa Village Road, Pahoa
• Honokaa High & Intermediate (pet friendly), 45-527 Pakalana St., Honokaa
• Kau High (pet friendly), 96-3150 Pikake St., Pahala
• Waikoloa Elementary, 68-1730 Hooko St., Waikoloa Village
Source: Red Cross