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East island hotels scramble ahead of Iselle

August 8, 2014 - 6:34am

One of Hilo’s Banyan Drive hotels decided Thursday to evacuate its guests to emergency shelters as innkeepers made contingency plans for the expected arrival of Hurricane Iselle.

Aaron Whiting, manager of Uncle Billy’s Hilo Bay Hotel, said guests of the family-owned four-story hotel were being directed to emergency shelters at Hilo and Waiakea high schools.

“This is an older construction building,” Whiting said. “The safety of our guests is our main concern.”

The evacuation was expected only for Thursday night.

“If we don’t have power (Friday), we can’t open back up,” he said. “We’re playing everything by ear right now.”

Whiting said guests with rental cars have been given directions to the emergency shelters. The others, he said, would be transported by bus.

Also evacuating its rooms and employees was the Hilo Seaside Hotel on Banyan Way.

At the Hilo Naniloa Hotel, it was business as usual, according to an employee who asked not to be identified.

“We’re staying open and providing shelter for anyone who needs it,” the employee said.

The employee said the hotel has about 150 guests and is currently at about 50 percent occupancy.

“We’re bringing in the deck furniture; the pool is closed,” the employee said. “If worse comes to worse, we’ll evacuate to the Crown Room.” The Crown, which has gone mostly unused as of late, is an entertainment venue on the property that holds about 350 people for concerts.

The eight-floor, 268-room Hilo Hawaiian Hotel was fully booked for Thursday night, said a hotel employee who requested anonymity.

“We are taking reservations for Friday night,” the employee said. Asked about preparations for the arrival of Hurricanes Iselle and Julio, the latter of which appears headed for a weekend arrival in Hilo, the employee pointed to a posted notice about the emergency shelters at Hilo and Waiakea high schools.

Unlike the lobbies of Uncle Billy’s and the Naniloa, which both resembled ghost towns, numerous guests milled about in the Hilo Hawaiian’s lobby Thursday morning, most glued to tablet computers and smartphone screens.

Kyle Yamamoto, wife Suzanna and son Evan, of Moraga, Calif., arrived Wednesday for a five-day stay on the Hilo side and are scheduled to go to Kona for another week.

“They’ve given us the warning letter, a flashlight, and basically advised us that between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for this evening, we should be in the hallways,” Suzanna Yamamoto said.

The Yamamotos said staff at the hotel “have been great” about keeping guests informed of developments related to the dual storm threat bearing down on the Big Island.

‘They’ve been very kind and are reassuring us that, hopefully, it will just touch down and keep moving,” Suzanna Yamamoto said.

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