By Andrew Walden
Hurricane Flossie gave Hawaii emergency planners exactly what they needed—another lucky miss. Passing south of South Point, Flossie generated little more than high choppy surf and gusty winds for Kau. Hilo and Puna had very light winds and just over 2 inches of rain. County workers closed off beach access. Schools and state and county offices were closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
In Kau and coastal areas of Hilo and Puna, many businesses and residential windows were taped and a few were boarded up. The county opened up 10 emergency shelters mostly in buildings where windows had been replaced by wooden jalousies shielded by metal grilles to protect against flying debris.
Most of the facilities on an expanded list of shelters would be exposed to damage from flying debris in the event that hurricane-force winds hit land. Red Cross volunteers reported few people using the shelters, but there was an influx of a couple of dozen people to a shelter at Keaau High School after a 5.4 magnitude earthquake rattled Puna Monday night.
In Kau only one shelter was available -- at Kau High School in Pahala where a windowless concrete-block building was opened to the public. Lacking hardened buildings throughout the district, emergency workers opened up another shelter Tuesday night at the LDS Church in Naalehu, a building with numerous glass windows. Kau is often the closest land to hurricanes tacking south of the Big Island. Kau Hospital in Pahala was not boarded up, opting instead for taping of its numerous windows.
Gas stations and supermarkets remained open as the storm passed with workers placing pre-cut plywood sheets over windows for protection. Wal-mart in Hilo remained open 24 hours Monday night to allow residents to stock up.
Flossie was downgraded to a category 1 hurricane before it passed South Point late Tuesday afternoon. It was further downgraded to a tropical storm as of 11PM Tuesday night. By 5AM Wednesday Flossie was passing some 270 miles south of Oahu traveling west at 15 mph. Flossie is expected to continue weakening and dissipating on a westerly course posing no further threat to land.
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