HONOLULU (AP) -- Hawaii residents loaded up on bottled water and canned meat Tuesday to prepare for the unusual threat of a hurricane and tropical storm barreling toward the islands.
Two big storms so close together is rare in the eastern Pacific, and Hurricane Iselle could make landfall by Thursday and Tropical Storm Julio could hit three days later, officials said.
It's unclear how damaging the storms could be, but people throughout the islands weren't taking any chances. Judy Castillo of Oahu said she wanted to make sure her family was prepared before big crowds flooded stores and shelves emptied.
“Two storms in a row? It's like, hello,” she said, pushing a cart with two cases of water and other items from a drug store to her car.
A grocery store in the coastal Oahu community of Waianae opened 15 minutes early Tuesday because people were already lined up to buy supplies. Bottled water and cans of Spam and Vienna Sausage flew off the shelves, said Tamura's Supermarket general manager Charlie Gustafson.
“Just about every shopping cart I see has at least one case of bottled water. Some as many as eight,” he said. “It's all flowing out very fast.”
Kyle Ellison of Maui said even though Costco and its gas station have been busy, he's trying to remain calm.
“At first I was pretty skeptical. It seems like all the storms we get here end up dissipating off the Big Island,” he said. “It looks like the second one is the one we have to worry about.”
He said his preparations so far have been removing his surfboards from the top of his truck and parking the vehicle in the garage. His friends who have boats scrambled to get them to harbor, he said.
Chris Pruett of Waikiki was anticipating the silver lining that comes from bad weather: good waves.
“We're just getting water and preparing ourselves, too, because it could be bad,” he said. “Of course we're not looking for a storm ... but it tends to generate good waves.”
The second storm system heightened the urgency to prepare, Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira said Tuesday. His county, also known as the Big Island, was expected to see Iselle first.
“Some people took action early,” he said. “I was out in the business community this morning talking to the merchants, and they haven't seen a rush on any commodities yet.”
Hurricane Iselle is expected to weaken to a tropical storm when it hits the Big Island on Thursday afternoon and then sweep over the remaining islands, said Brian Miyamoto, spokesman for State Civil Defense/Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
He said “tropical storms are nothing to laugh at” and could bring heavy rains and sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph.
The outlook for Julio is more uncertain _ it could hit the islands by Sunday, Miyamoto said.
The clustered storms are rare but not unexpected in years with a developing El Nino, a change in ocean temperature that affects weather around the world.
“The central Pacific doesn't see nearly the activity that the Atlantic sees,” said James Franklin, chief of hurricane specialists for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. But when an El Nino develops, “those are the kinds of years you see more activity.”
In preparation, some people in Hawaii were making sure to vote early in the primary elections, which are Saturday. It includes several marquee races including primaries for U.S. Senate, governor and a U.S. House seat covering urban Honolulu.
Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell plans to return two day early from a trip to Japan.
Associated Press Writers Doug Esser in Seattle and Oskar Garcia in Honolulu contributed to this report.