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Damage assessments underway after storm

By Timothy Hurley

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 07:15 a.m. HST, Aug 09, 2014


After delivering a nasty blow to Hawaii island, the first tropical cyclone to hit the state in 22 years limped off to the west Friday evening, but not before taking a few shots at the rest of the island chain.

Tropical Storm Iselle brought strong wind and rain to some parts of the smaller islands, knocking down trees and power lines and closing a few roads. Thousands lost power across the state.

As Iselle headed west as a weak tropical storm, Julio was approaching from the east in the form of a powerful hurricane expected to weaken and pass 200 miles north of the islands starting Sunday. But forecasters warned that conditions could change and send it toward the islands.

A flash flood watch remained in place for the entire state through 6 a.m. Saturday, and a high-surf advisory remained for eastern shores through 6 a.m. Monday.

Federal, state and county emergency responders were working throughout the state to assess damage Friday night while Gov. Neil Abercrombie was at the emergency operations center in Diamond Head Crater doing a "virtual assessment" of Hawaii island by viewing real-time video from National Guard helicopters as they flew over the South Hilo and Puna districts.

The governor appeared relieved and in good spirits at a news conference Friday night.

"Because of the cooperation of everyone throughout the islands, we're in a position to say we've come through," he declared.

State Emergency Management Agency Administrator Doug Mayne said his department had "very few reported needs," but they were ready and prepared to address any requests for help with "the appropriate resources."

The body of a man, possibly a fisherman, was found in the water off Ala Moana Beach Park, but officials were unsure whether his death was related to the storm. Otherwise, no major injuries were reported across the state.

Wind shear and the monster twin peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa may have combined to prevent Iselle from making landfall on Hawaii island as a full Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph or more, said Eric Lau, meteorologist with the National Weather Services.

The system instead made landfall as a tropical storm at about 2:30 a.m. and passed over the island at Kau on the south coast. From there it weakened considerably, causing few major problems before the final tropical storm advisories for Kauai and Oahu were canceled just before 4 p.m.

Forecasters expect Iselle to weaken into a depression within a day or two.

In Maui County, Mayor Alan Arakawa gave the all-clear at 3 p.m. after heavy rain soaked parts of Upcountry and East Maui overnight and strong wind uprooted trees in a few spots. But most of the island was spared, with no major damage reported.

The National Weather Service canceled a flood warning for the island just after 5 a.m. Friday, following heavy rain concentrated in Pukalani and Hana overnight, with Pukalani getting close to 2.5 inches of rain. Kula recorded the highest wind speeds at 61 mph.

The soggy conditions and whipping winds toppled large trees and pulled down power lines in some areas, closing roadways in Lahaina, Makawao, Olinda and Nahiku, and knocking out power to some 8,000 customers across the island.

Maui Electric Co. said it had restored power to 7,750 customers as of 1:30 p.m. Friday but that 250 customers in pockets of Olinda, Pukalani and Haiku remained without power as crews worked to replace damaged electrical equipment.

The outage affected the county's water treatment plant in Olinda, and Kula residents were being asked from Thursday night to conserve water because no new water could be generated until power is restored.

The Red Cross evacuation site at King Kekaulike High School in Pukalani sheltered nine people overnight, according to shelter co-manager Andi Christie.

"We had pretty good wind here. We had two families and their pets, a couple of homeless people, and we just hunkered down. We lost electricity once this morning," she said Friday afternoon.

Christie, who lives in Olinda, said her husband and son reported "torrential rain" back home overnight and said her yard was trashed by wind.

Aloha Smith, another shelter co-manager, said her husband reported that back home in Kaupo in southeastern Maui, "it rained so hard around 4:30 this morning that the house was shaking. But then it stopped."

By midnight Thursday 231 people had checked into the eight evacuation shelters in Maui County.

Among the evacuees at Baldwin High School in Kahului were Nicolas Tiburzi and his wife, Adela Ordoqui, natives of Argentina now living in Austin, Texas.

The couple arrived Tuesday on Maui for a vacation and said they first heard about the coming storms when they went to buy shave ice that day.

Tiburzi said they had a hard time finding clear information about the potential impact of the storm until Thursday, due in part to a lack of Internet and phone service at their Haiku rental.

"It's like a small apartment. It's not good for a hurricane. You can see the beach. We didn't feel very safe," Ordoqui said.

"This is our first actual storm," Tiburzi added. "It's our first time to Hawaii. We're trying to keep this attitude, you know, positive, and look at it in the best way we can because if not we'll be sad."

Richard Thompson relocated to the Kahului shelter from his campsite at Paia Beach Park on Maui's north coast. He had heard about the storm and researched an evacuation plan by reading the local newspaper.

"Basically I'm homeless now, but I've been on a camping trip around the island," Thompson said. "I didn't really want to be out in this storm."

The county's Maui Bus resumed service Friday afternoon, and county operations were scheduled to return to normal Monday morning after nonemergency services were shut down at noon Thursday.

On Kauai at least three trees toppled in different parts of the island.

"That's why we were warning people to stay indoors," said Mary Daubert, Kauai County spokeswoman. Otherwise, "it rained a bit," she said. "It was relatively mild."

Because some flights were canceled, the county at 5 p.m. opened a public shelter for visitors at Kauai War Memorial Convention Center in Lihue.

On Oahu, police closed Nuuanu Pali Drive in both directions Friday morning after a tree fell on the road. Tantalus Drive also closed because of a toppled tree.

Wind also carried away the covering of a lanai in Kuakini and opened up the corner of a home's roof in Kahuku, fire officials said.

Hawaiian Electric Co. reported that at about 1:30 p.m. Friday, crews were responding to power outages affecting about 1,500 customer in Hauula, Kaaawa, Kahuku and other parts of Windward Oahu.

Earlier Friday, HECO restored power to some 4,500 customers in parts of Makaha, Maunawili, Wahiawa and portions of Leeward Oahu.

Although bus service on Oahu was canceled because of the storm, the city allowed 28 express bus runs to operate beginning at 4:30 a.m. to get workers to Waikiki to serve the more than 94,000 visitors there, the mayor said. The express bus runs ended at 7:30 a.m.

Scheduled refuse collection will resume Saturday, city officials said. City employees return to work Monday, but city parks will open this weekend. The Honolulu Zoo and Hanauma Bay will open Saturday.

There were at least 2,000 people who took refuge from the weather at Red Cross evacuation shelters throughout the state.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said 590 people spent the night in 10 Oahu evacuation centers.

Caldwell said the largest group was at Nanakuli High School with 275 people, followed by McKinley High with 187 and Kaimuki High with 58. The smallest number was at Waialua High School with two people; there were five at Campbell High School.

Ray Moody, a Red Cross volunteer shelter manager, said that there were at least 20 homeless families, who frequent the Kakaako area, who spent the night sleeping on the hardwood floor in the McKinley gym.

"There were people waiting at 3 p.m.," Moody added, "but the shelter didn't open until 10."

Star-Advertiser reporters Nanea Kalani and Gregg K. Kakesako contributed to this report.






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