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Pearl Harbor girds for Hurricane Lane

Tour boats to the USS Arizona Memorial are suspended; the park will close at noon today; and ships and planes at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam are expected to be moved ahead of Hurricane Lane, officials said.

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By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: August 22, 2018

HONOLULU, Hawaii (Tribune News Service) — Tour boats to the USS Arizona Memorial are suspended; the park will close at noon today; and ships and planes at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam are expected to be moved ahead of Hurricane Lane, officials said.

The National Park Serv­ice said the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will close early “to allow staff time to prepare for heavy winds and rain. The park will remain closed until further notice.”

Walk-on tours out to the memorial were stopped in May and replaced by a harbor tour with the park service seeking to remedy a faulty landing dock.

The Navy on Tuesday suspended the boat operations that daily ferry thousands of visitors across part of the harbor to see the Arizona Memorial.

The Navy and Air Force base said it was at Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness 3, indicating that destructive and sustained winds of 50 knots (57 mph) or greater are possible within 48 hours.

Officials urged military and Defense Department personnel and their families to complete their disaster kits and emergency preparations.

The joint base said it “continues to operate its Emergency Operations Center to monitor the hurricane and ensure the safety and security of base personnel,” while it remains “fully mission capable with potential follow-on actions contingent upon weather updates.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said its Gulfstream IV jet would be flying for about eight hours Tuesday in support of Hurricane Lane forecasts.

NOAA said it also used a P-3 Orion four-engine turboprop to fly through the hurricane Monday, but a mission slated for Tuesday was scrapped “as the aircraft needs to be examined after encountering strong turbulence” on a Monday night flight.

“Hurricane Hunters” from the Air Force’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron also made multiple storm penetrations in a WC-130J, according to NOAA.

At readiness level 3, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam is expected to close the Ford Island bridge depending on wind speed as follows: 35 knots, closed to large high-profile vehicles (large tour buses and tractor-trailers); 45 knots, closed to all other trucks (all other cars, minivans and motorcycles proceed with caution); 50 knots, closed to all vehicles.

No additional gate closures are expected at level 3; however, other gates might begin to close at level 2 as conditions warrant, the joint base said.

Level 2 includes the expectation of destructive winds of 50 knots or greater within 24 hours.

The joint base had more than 66,000 Navy and Air Force active-duty personnel, civilians and family members, and 11 ships, 18 nuclear-powered submarines and six fixed-wing aviation squadrons as of 2015.

Information as to where the Navy and Air Force will move ships and aircraft was not available Tuesday.

The Nimitz and O’Malley gates will remain open 24 hours, with a modified schedule as necessary. Drivers are advised to anticipate possible road or gate closures and limit their travel.

“For residents living on base, be prepared to safely shelter in place; no evacuations are currently planned for (joint base) housing areas at this time,” the Facebook post said.

Marine Corps Base Hawaii said on its Facebook page that Tropical Cyclone Conditions of Readiness 4 had been set, meaning destructive winds of 50 knots or greater are possible within 72 hours.

In an attached report, the Marine Corps noted that hurricanes are “relatively rare events” in the Hawaiian Islands.

Since 1950 five tropical cyclones of varying intensity — Hurricanes Nina (1957), Dot (1959), Iwa (1982), Estelle (1986) and Iniki (1992) — have caused $2.12 billion in damage and 11 deaths, according to the Marine Corps.

Maj. Jeff Hickman, a spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard, said, “We’ve been planning for (this type of possible emergency) since the hurricane season started.”

And that’s in addition to “years and years of hurricane exercises and actual real-world events,” he said.

Hickman noted the Guard is the “standby” response force in the event of major damage. “The hurricane will belong to the counties first, and then like the lava (on Hawaii island), when they need assistance, they go to the governor” for additional help.

The Guard has response “packages” that it can deploy for debris clearance or medical needs.

“So if they ask for some sort of support, we already have those packages waiting to fill those support needs,” Hickman said.

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