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Zapped Out

The storm rapidly Loses strength as it Sweeps over the isles, but still buffets areas with rain and wind

By William Cole / Nanea Kalani / Rosemarie Bernardo

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:28 a.m. HST, Jul 30, 2013


There was good news and bad news as Tropical Depression Flossie blew through the isles Monday.

Although the state received a drenching and strong winds, Hawaii benefited, as it has in the past, from high-altitude wind shear that took the top off the storm along with some of its dangerous punch, experts say.

At 5 p.m. Monday, as Tropical Storm Flossie was downgraded to a tropical depression, its center was 90 miles east of Honolulu. It had sustained winds of 35 mph and higher gusts and was moving west-northwest at 18 mph. Rain ahead of its arrival was falling steadily in Hono­lulu and other parts of Oahu.

Thunder and lightning appeared to be heading to Oahu on radar early Monday night but died out before reaching shore. Forecasters say more rain, even thunderstorms, may linger today and Wednesday after Flossie passes because of humid and hot conditions.

Lightning Monday knocked out power briefly to the island of Molokai and injured a man on Maui. Initial reports indicated the man was struck by lightning at a residence in Haiku about 6:22 p.m. Paramedics treated him and took him by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, said Ryan Joslin, a spokesman with the Maui County Paramedics Association.

"He was in stable condition," Joslin said.

Although warnings were given to stock up on water, batteries and candles, shelters were opened and some airline flights were canceled, there was good news, too: The downgraded tropical storm never hit Hawaii with a full head of steam.

Michael Cantin, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service forecast office, said that weakening happened "quite rapidly overnight" Sunday.

"So we went from a storm that was 60 miles an hour (Sunday) afternoon to evening dropping rapidly from there," he said.

A tropical storm has winds between 39 and 73 mph; a depression has winds less than 39 mph.

Not since 1992 and Hurricane Iniki has a tropical cyclone — defined as a hurricane, tropical storm or depression — made landfall in the Aloha State, Cantin said.

THE STORM tracked north of the Hawaiian Islands on Monday, but whether it would make landfall on Kauai was unclear.

Tropical storms like to be stacked in layers starting from low-pressure zones near the water's edge up high into the atmosphere with more bad weather, Cantin said. Wind shear took off the top of the storm, and when it had no more clouds or storm weather stacked on top, it lost a lot of its energy, he said.

"In general, we're in a good place (in the Pacific)," Cantin said. The wind shear ebbs and flows but is usually present, and that's why landfalls are pretty rare, he said.

"But there is history, historical times, when the shear wasn't present and we've been hit — (Hurricane) Iniki is the big one back in 1992, a Category 4 storm with 150-mile-per-hour winds. The wind shear wasn't there and it just plowed right through," Cantin said.

Even so, heavy rain of 3 to 4 inches per hour was expected periodically Monday night on Oahu, with the potential for a lot of lightning, followed by the storm moving toward Kauai.

"We expect it to be clear of the area as we get in towards the late morning, early afternoon (today)," Cantin said.

Radar showed heavy rain Monday over East Maui and the south slope of Hale­akala with rates of 3 to 4 inches an hour, the National Weather Service said.

A high-surf warning was issued for east-facing shores of Kauai, Molokai and Oahu through early this morning, with surf possibly reaching 15 feet.

A flood watch was in place for the entire state last night.

The west-moving storm hit the Puna and Kau areas of East Hawaii island earlier Monday, with reports of fallen trees.

At 5:30 Monday afternoon, Hono­lulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said city emergency responders were still on high alert. Earlier in the day, Caldwell allowed all nonemergency employees — the majority of the city's 10,000 workers — to go home at 3 p.m., saying he wanted to allow employees enough time to get home safely and be with their families.

The shortened workday did not apply to essential employees, including police, fire, sewer and bus workers. Municipal golf courses, the zoo and satellite city hall locations were shut down.

The city set up 10 emergency evacuation shelters islandwide with the American Red Cross. The city also had launched a free shuttle service to run until 6 p.m. for homeless individuals from Wai­anae Boat Harbor to an evacuation shelter at Wai­anae District Park.

North Shore resident Alicia Craig stood under the awning at Foodland in Pupu­kea to take shelter from the rain Monday afternoon while her friend picked up a few items from the store.

"Nobody is preparing for it as far as I've noticed," she said as several residents and visitors exited the store carrying six- and 12-packs of beer, cases of soda and plastic bags filled with chips and other snacks. One person bought two bodyboards.

Craig, who regularly goes camping, said she had water-treatment tablets and a camp stove.

"One of these days, we are going to have something detrimental, and nobody is going to be prepared for it," she added.

A GROUP of more than 50 teens from France headed to the Waia­lua United Church of Christ, one of the evacuation shelters that opened at 3 p.m. on Oahu. The group's camping trip was hampered by the rainy weather. Rows of sleeping bags were laid out on the cement floor inside the church's meeting hall, a site often used for parties for North Shore residents.

About 30 to 40 residents usually seek shelter at the church when storm warnings are issued, said member Lawrence Van Drei, who was at the Waia­lua United Church to assist the group.

Some teens tossed a football at the church's grassy area during a break in the rainy weather while others stayed indoors chatting and using their smartphones.

Before officials canceled the storm warning, Costes Aman­dine, one of the group's team leaders, said some were afraid of the storm's potential impacts. They were expecting sunny weather and spending time at the beach, Aman­dine said.

Hawaii was the last stop of the group's 20-day trip to the U.S. Aman­dine said it hopes to still have a chance to visit Waikiki and Diamond Head today before returning to France on Wednesday.

On the Windward side some residents and businesses were unfazed by warnings issued by the National Weather Service and constant messages from city officials to prepare for Flossie. Chartered boat tours packed with passengers at Heeia Kea Small Boat Harbor ran as scheduled despite the cloudy and rainy weather.

Some residents like Selu Walker of Kaneohe said they are always prepared for a storm. She said she worries about other residents who don't take precautions should a storm hit.

"They should be prepared," Walker said.

———

Star-Advertiser reporter Gordon Y.K. Pang contributed to this report.






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