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Recovery begins after Iselle leaves

By Manuel Valdes

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 04:23 a.m. HST, Aug 11, 2014


Sunshine and blue skies returned to parts of Hawaii on Sunday after days of heavy rain and gusting winds brought by Tropical Storm Iselle, the first to make landfall in more than two decades. A second storm in the Pacific, Hurricane Julio, had tourists and residents on edge but is moving away from the islands and no longer posing a threat.

Iselle, initially a hurricane, left the most traveled and populated areas of the state largely unscathed, but toppled trees and power lines when it hit the Big Island early Friday. Thousands of people there remained without power or any idea when it would be restored.

By Sunday morning, Iselle, no longer a tropical storm, was 490 miles west of Lihue and moving west, further away from the islands, at 15 mph.

Here is a summary of how the storms affected Hawaii:

RECOVERY OPERATIONS:

Hawaii Electric Light Co. crews continued work Sunday to restore power to customers still without electricity after Thursday's storm. Those without power are mostly in the Puna area, bu also in smaller pockets in East Hawaii, HELCO said in a news release. On Saturday, crews restored power to a portion of Hawaiian Paradise Park.

Crews have also made "significant progress" in repairing main transmission lines, making the overall system more stable. But some lines, such as the transmission line serving the Puna Geothermal Venture plant are in forested areas that are still can't be reached because of fallen trees.

"Our first priority was to repair our high-voltage transmission lines. With the backbone of the island's electric system restored, and our grid more stable, crews can start working on restoring neighborhood circuits for customers who are still without power," HELCO President Jay Ignacio said in a written statement. "As Iselle hit our island, we started losing our transmission lines - the backbone of our electric grid - and came very close to losing the whole island. Of the 35 transmission lines on the island, we lost more than half during the storm."

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources reopened several parks Sunday, including the Wailoa River State Park in Hilo and Polihale State Park on Kauai. The Napali Coast State Park Kalalau trail is open for day use only. No overnight camping is allowed.

Also Sunday, Red Cross teams are canvassing neighborhoods in the Hawaiian Beaches area to assess damage from Tropical Storm Iselle.

INITIAL CONCERNS:

For the first time in 22 years, a hurricane was on course to hit Hawaii, launching urgent preparations earlier this week. But the worries weren't just Hurricane Iselle. A second and stronger hurricane, Julio, also had the potential trajectory to hit the islands. 

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PREPARATIONS:

With two hurricanes looming, airlines canceled flights to and from the mainland and between islands. Businesses, schools and government offices closed, boarding up windows and placing sandbags in preparation for winds and flooding. Residents emptied grocery stores of bottled water and other supplies. People battened down their homes or flowed into emergency shelters and hoped for the best.

Transit services and tourist attractions like the memorial sites at Pearl Harbor shut down, but officials kept plans to hold Saturday's primary elections, including heated congressional and gubernatorial races. 

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LANDFALL:

Iselle's center made landfall early Friday as a tropical storm, having weakened late Thursday about 50 miles offshore. It hit the Big Island first, pounding it with heavy rain, violent wind and ocean surges. The island's formidable volcanic mountains took a toll on Iselle, essentially splitting the spinning storm in half. 

The weakened Iselle diverted south, its outer bands peppering Maui, Oahu and Kauai with less intense rain and wind.

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DAMAGE ON THE BIG ISLAND:

While the Big Island helped curb Iselle, it also took the brunt of the storm. About 25,000 people lost electricity. Days later, thousands remained in the dark and were told to expect extended outages. 

Coffee farmers navigated flooded streets to check on their crops, and residents used chain saws to break up fallen trees blocking roads. Water, ice and other supplies were flown to the area, and roads were being cleared, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Sunday.

Robert O'Connor, who runs the Country Cottage on the Big Island, said Sunday that the inn lacked power and running water. He provided guests buckets to flush the toilets and said they weren't enjoying showering in the rain.

"Everybody hunkered down," he said, adding that the main roads reopened and a nearby fire station allowed people to shower there.

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DAMAGE ELSEWHERE:

On Kauai, rescuers found the body Saturday of a 19-year-old woman believed to have been swept away in a stream while hiking Friday in a closed state park.

On Oahu, there was little damage to Joseph Cambe's lei stand. 

"It was not too bad," he said Saturday, days after taking down flowers ahead of Iselle. "We lost one day of business, but we can make it up by opening early and closing late."

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TOURISTS:

In the popular tourist destinations of Waikiki and Pearl Harbor on Oahu, the hours after Iselle were far different than on the Big Island. While rain poured, the storm passed south of the island and did not have much of an impact. By Friday night, life was nearly back to normal. Open-air waterfront restaurants were bustling, Hawaiian bands serenaded tourists, and people were out swimming and surfing, despite the overcast skies. 

"We appreciated the preparation, and that Iselle behaved," said Silvia Otto, a traveler visiting from California.

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THE FORECAST:

The National Weather Service said Hurricane Julio is moving away from Hawaii. The agency downgraded Julio, which is 400 miles northeast of Honolulu, to a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest level. But the storm is affecting trade winds that usually keep the islands cool, so hot, muggy weather is expected through the first half of the week. 

"We'll build back to the tropical paradise we've come to love," meteorologist John Bravender said of the second half of the week.

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Associated Press writers Oskar Garcia, Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Cathy Bussewitz in Honolulu contributed to this report.






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