TORONTO – Canadians stuck in Hawaii amid torrential rains from a tropical storm say despite an eventful last couple of days seeking shelter, they hope to enjoy the rest of their trip.
Lane was barrelling towards the islands of Hawaii as a powerful Category 5 hurricane in the middle of last week, but was downgraded to a tropical storm on Friday and slowed down as it approached land.
As it lingered, the storm’s outer bands were already over the Big Island, allowing Lane to drop 131 centimetres of rain as of early Sunday morning, according to preliminary figures from the U.S. National Weather Service.
No storm-related deaths have been reported, but authorities have said they plucked families from floodwaters and landslides closed roads. Forecasters warned that some areas “may be uninhabitable for weeks.”
Twenty-one-year-olds Marie-Dominique Cote, Alexia Nieman and Beatrice Lacharite from Sherbrooke, Que., say they arrived on Hawaii’s Kauai island on Aug. 20. What was supposed to be a five-day stop turned into a hunt for shelter and eventually a waiting game, they said.
“We’ve always wanted to go to Hawaii, but we never thought that this would happen,” Cote said in a phone interview.
On Sunday, Cote said strong winds and precipitation were still falling on the small island at the northwest tip of the chain that makes up Hawaii.
“It’s been grey and dark outside for days … there is no ray of light,” said Cote. “We have never seen anything like this before.”
When they first arrived on the island, the three women booked a tent on Airbnb, but they quickly realized it wasn’t the safest option.
“We sort of panicked when we realized we had to find somewhere else to stay in order to be safe,” said Cote.
As they hunted down a hotel room, she said they came across local shop owners barricading their windows and residents emptying the shelves at grocery stores.
“We are not used to it at all, but it almost seemed like a routine for locals here,” she said. “They knew what to do right away.”
Cote said they hope the storm washes away soon, as they plan on enjoying the rest of their vacation before heading back home in a week.
“Once it’s done we will try to go to an island that has not suffered too much from the tropical storm,” she said.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a news conference on Saturday that the city and the state had “dodged a bullet,” but added that “doesn’t mean it’s over.
“We are going to have rain and wind and local flooding, and we need to be vigilant and make sure we don’t let our guards down,” he said.
Despite the added stress and the change of vacation plans, Cote said the tropical storm brought Canadians in Hawaii closer together.
The three women met two other Canadians who couldn’t find a place to stay, as hotel rooms on the island were almost all booked. She said they welcomed them into their room and the five of them are now waiting to see what happens next.
— with files from The Associated Press