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Big Isle residents escape Flossie relatively unscathed

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

LAST UPDATED: 2:27 p.m. HST, Jul 30, 2013

Hawaii County's Emergency Operations Center in Hilo was reduced to skeletal crew status shortly after Tropical Storm Flossie got downgraded to a tropical depression shortly after 5 p.m. Monday.

Despite dire forecasts and much advanced preparation by Hawaii island Mayor Billy Kenoi and interim Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira, the island was spared serious damage. There were also no reports of injuries.

There were scattered reports of wind-related power outages 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 around noon but reopened about 2:30, Civil Defense officials said. 

More than 6,000 customers of the Hawaii Electric Light Co., mostly from Volcano to Pahoa, lost power after high winds that knocked down power lines in various areas of Puna, said Kristin Okinaka, HELCO deputy corporate communications officer.

At the peak there were about 6,300 homes and businesses without power, according to Hawaii Electric Light Co. That included 2,800 customers from Volcano to Glenwood, 2,200 customers from Kalapana to Nanawale and 1,300 in Panaewa. Power was restored to some areas, and by mid-afternoon there were 5,000 customers without power, HELCO reported.

Power has since been restored to about 500 customers, but HELCO crews are still working on the rest of the outages, Okinaka said Monday afternoon.

The county's Hele-On bus service, a crucial mode of transportation for East Hawaii residents who work at West Hawaii hotels, is expected to resume full operations today. A single run of the Kohala-Hilo route was scheduled to go at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

Landfills and transfer stations, and parks were all expected to return to normal business hours on Tuesday. The island's harbors at Kawaihae and Hilo were reopened Monday afternoon.

Portions of Kona and Kohala began feeling the brunt of the storm about mid-afternoon.

About 2:30 p.m., Kaiminani Drive near Pia Place, in a subdivision mauka of Keahole Airport, was closed for about half an hour due to a fallen tree, Civil Defense officials said. It has since been reopened.

"We're still seeing some wind and rain issues in Kona, nothing that's causing any significant problems," said interim Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira, shortly after 5 p.m.

Mayor Billy Kenoi praised Oliveira, who stayed up more than 24 hours on his 52nd birthday, for coordinating the disaster countermeasures with his staff.


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