HILO » Hawaii island officials and residents breathed a sigh of relief after escaping what appeared to be a serious storm Monday after one-time Tropical Storm Flossie was downgraded to a tropical depression late in the afternoon.
After dire forecasts that the island would sustain a direct hit, Hawaii island escaped with little more than several road closures and electricity outages.
Hawaii County interim Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira, who’d stayed up almost continuously over several days, including his 52nd birthday, breathed a sigh of relief.
"We were very fortunate that we came through this event with very minimal problems in the sense that we don’t have structures damaged, homes damaged, etc.," Oliveira said. "The impact from the storm has been fairly minimal."
Both Oliveira and Mayor Billy Kenoi said they were prepared to respond to any criticism that the precautions were unnecessary.
"We did take a very aggressive approach to preparing our response," Oliveira said, noting that parks and solid-waste facilities were closed and that nonessential government services were canceled. That included the Hele-On Bus service, considered a vital cog for workers commuting between East Hawaii and West Hawaii.
The bus service was expected to resume full operations today.
Kenoi had urged island residents to spend the day at home if they had the choice. "It’s always prudent to err on the side of safety and the welfare of the community," he said.
There were fewer than a dozen reports of wind-related power failures and road closures.
The most serious was at Highway 132, the Pahoa-Kapoho Highway in the area of Lava Tree State Park, where a tree fell over a power line.
The highway was closed at about noon but reopened at about 2:30 p.m., Civil Defense officials said.
More than 6,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light Co., mostly from Volcano to Pahoa, lost power after high wind knocked down power lines in various areas of Puna, said Kristin Okinaka, HELCO deputy corporate communications officer.
Landfills, transfer stations and parks were all expected to return to normal business hours today. The island’s harbors at Kawaihae and Hilo were reopened by the state Monday afternoon.
Portions of Kona and Kohala began feeling the brunt of the storm about midafternoon.
At about 2:30 p.m. Kaiminani Drive near Pia Place, in a subdivision mauka of Keahole Airport, was closed for about a half-hour due to a fallen tree, Civil Defense officials said.
For many Hawaii island residents used to dealing with natural disasters from tsunamis to volcanic eruptions, Monday was just another day.
Along Saddle Road in the center part of the island, a Goodfellow Bros. crew conducted road expansion work under a steady rain.
At nine evacuation centers set up across the island by Civil Defense and the American Red Cross, a total of five people sought shelter.