AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Hawaii is dealing with not one, but two hurricanes. Hurricane Iselle is making landfall today and on Saturday, hurricane Julio is expected to pass north of the island, though it may be tropical storm by then. The big island of Hawaii will get the brunt of gazelle with 85 miles-per-hour winds. The island could get up to a foot of rain. Hurricanes are pretty rare in Hawaii - the last one hit the state 22 years ago. Billy Kenoi is the mayor of the County of Hawaii, which encompasses the entire big Island. We talked to him earlier today when he said the weather was deceptively calm. Though with buckets of rain on the way, one big concern is flooding.
MAYOR BILLY KENOI: When we have that much water - as you mentioned, they're talking six to eight inches in a six to eight hour period maybe up to 12 inches of rain. When you have that kind of intensity in a short duration, you saturate the island. When you bring in a subsequent system in a relatively short period of time, as Julio is presenting, you're looking at having that water be surface runoff, and that presents a lot of challenges in terms of flooding. But again we're - high winds - we're talking you know, high surf, storm surges, and a lot of water. You put all those elements together and it creates a lot of unpredictability, so what we're trying to do is manage the predictable, to be prepared for the unpredictable.
CORNISH: Mayor Kenoi, are there any preparations for perhaps evacuations - mandatory ones?
KENOI: We're not a mandatory evacuation yet, but we have gone along all shoreline, coastline areas. Our social service agencies have reached out to our homelands community. We've reached out to all of our seniors and elderly populations trying to move them from vulnerable areas into shelters. But we have not activated mandatory evacuations at this point in time.
CORNISH: In the meantime, what concerns do you have about the tourism industry? Obviously a big part of the economic life there.
KENOI: Yeah, we have approximately 31,000 visitors on Hawaii Island. We have our Big Island Visitors Bureau reaching out, coordinating with all of our resort properties and hotels. So it's a very important industry - important sector of our economy and we're prepared to protect and keep them safe.
CORNISH: One thing I wanted to confirm with your reports - that primary elections that were scheduled for Saturday are still planning to go forward - is that the case?
KENOI: Correct, yeah. Early absentee voting goes today until four p.m. And we also are anticipating keeping our primary election day voting hours on Saturday.
CORNISH: Now, why is that? Aren't their concerns about the weather?
KENOI: Well, again our Iselle system will be arriving today, Thursday. We anticipate intensity tonight - that gives us Friday, Saturday - Julio arriving on Sunday. So we believe that the right to cast a vote is an important right, and that right should be respected and protected. And right now based on all the available data and information we have to make our decisions, is that Saturday we should be able to hold our elections and people should be able to cast their votes relatively safely.
CORNISH: Mayor Billy Kenoi, where do you plan to spend the night in shelter from the storm?
KENOI: I'm here at the emergency operations center. Me and my wife and family are going to go out right now and we're going to cast our votes and I'll return to the emergency operation center. We'll be here nonstop throughout the night.
CORNISH: That the Billy Kenoi, the mayor of the County of Hawaii - the big Island. Thanks so much for speaking with us and stay safe.
KENOI: Thank you guys very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.