HONOLULU (AP) — Residents and tourists in Hawaii are bracing for two major storms swirling toward the island chain. Hurricane Iselle is expected to hit the Big Island on Thursday evening, canceling flights and shaking up the final days of campaigns before the state's primary election. Hurricane Julio is following in the Pacific, having strengthened into a Category 2 storm but forecast to pass just north of the islands sometime Sunday morning.
Officials say Hawaii's primary election will be held Saturday as planned. But candidates in heated races are suspending campaign activities, including a Democratic rally.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie and U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, both in the final days of tight races, asked supporters to take down campaign signs so they don't become dangerous projectiles. Kathryn Xian, who's running for Congress, suspended campaign activities and her volunteers focused on driving homeless people to shelters.
"I can assure you, as governor, that all campaign hats are off," Abercrombie said in a press conference Wednesday. "We are dealing solely and with the question of the health and safety of the people of Hawaii."
Airports remained open Thursday, but the Department of Transportation encouraged travelers to check with airlines. American Airlines, Island Air, Mokulele, United Airlines and US Airways all have canceled flights, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.
Travelers were urged to stay in hotels instead of heading to the airport, unless their flight was imminent.
"It's very, very important that people understand that our airport is not set up to handle large crowds," Ford Fuchigami, interim director of the Hawaii's Department of Transportation, said in a press conference.
Public bus service on Oahu and Maui were shutting down bus service Friday. In Oahu, evacuation buses would start running at late Thursday.
An estimated 204,000 visitors are scattered across the Hawaiian islands on any given day, and hotel and tourism officials are delivering emergency information in multiple languages, said Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the tourism authority.
Tourists in popular Waikiki Beach on Oahu lounged on beach chairs and surfed on the azure waves while the tropical sun shone.
"We did decide to come out here and make the most of it before we had to be back inside because of the storm," said Helen Povazan, retired IT manager visiting from Melbourne, Australia.
On Hawaii's Big Island, residents in the quaint town of Pahoa were glad they stocked up on bottled water earlier in the week because most stores had run out.
"Lucky thing I bought four cases Monday," said Tarty Taurus at the Kaleo's Bar and Grill, as restaurant staff served customers and tied down everything they could.
Residents of rural Hana on Maui are hoping Hana Highway isn't washed out and have been buying up plywood, said Wiloris Perry-Estocado of Hasagawa General Store.
"There's a lot of old homes in Hana — we're all as prepared as can be," Perry-Estocado said. "If the wind comes, a lot of our roofs are going to go."
Associated Press Writer Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report. Rob Collias contributed to this report from Maui.