By Smita Paul
MAUI, Hawaii (Reuters) – Hurricane Douglas was expected to hit Hawaii within hours, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on Saturday, and while it’s forecast to gradually weaken, it could still bring deadly winds and rains to the islands.
The NHC said in a bulletin that it forecasts Douglas to move over the main Hawaiian islands late on Saturday or early on Sunday.
Despite that, residents on Maui were characteristically relaxed about the storm.
“We are bringing in the lawn chairs and putting big rocks on some roofing material we just bought,” said Chuck Boerner, a 74-year-old farmer from Kipahulu, in east Maui.
Hawaii has a fraction of the tourists it would normally have at this tome of year because of the coronavirus pandemic, somewhat making things easier for emergency planners.
“If there are any positives in this situation it is that there are fewer visitors to be accountable for, fewer people to worry about,” said Chris Sugidono, a public information officer for Maui County.
Shelters are putting measures in place to ensure social distancing, but ideally, people would shelter in their homes – unless they are in the flood zone, he said.
About half the people in shelters are visitors who had their flights postponed or canceled during past hurricanes, Sugidono said. Those who are still in quarantine at their hotels should stay there unless the hotel is threatened itself.
(Reporting by Smita Paul on Maui, Hawaii; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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