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Lightning blows hole in church steeple as rains move off Oahu

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A light dusting of snow can be seen on Mauna Kea this morning in this image from a webcam at the Keck Observatory and posted on the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy Mauna Kea Weather Center webpage.

A lighting strike blew a hole in the steeple of a Kaneohe church tonight during a storm that brought hail, thunderstorms, and flash flooding.

Also tonight, firefighters responded to a report of a boat disabled by lightning off the coast of East Honolulu. A fire rescue boat and other firefighters were dispatched about 9:30 p.m. Initial reports said the boat had been drifting for a while and was about 3 miles off shore from Hawaii Loa Ridge. 

On the Windward side, the lightning bolt struck at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, at 48-422 Kamehameha Highway, before 6:50 p.m. and left a 10 square-foot hole in a wooden steeple above the church, said Honolulu fire Capt. Terry Seelig.

He said some people who were at the church were either in the main building or another building on the property when they heard a loud thunderclap. They went outside and saw the hole with a lot of debris on the ground.

Firefighters responded and climbed the roof to confirm there was no fire and found there was apparently no structural damage to the roof besides the steeple, Seelig said.

Firefighters used tarps from the church to patch the hole.

It wasn’t raining at the time, and no one was hurt, Seelig said.

The strike appeared to be the worst damage on Oahu caused by the storm today.

The National Weather Service downgraded a flash flood warning for Windward Oahu to a watch after radar showed heavy rain and thunderstorms moving offshore last night.

A flood advisory remained in effect for the rest of the island and Maui County. 

About 1,000 Hawaiian Electric customers in the Kaiser High School area of Hawaii Kai lost their power about 6:15 p.m.

Hawaii Kai residents reported heavy rain as well the loss of electricity. 

The National Weather Service said spotters reported flooding along Kaneohe Bay Drive about 5:30 p.m. 

A flash flood warning for Oahu was canceled at 2:30 p.m. 

Rain fell heavily this afternoon at Waipio, Wahiawa, Kapolei, Ewa Beach, Pearl City, Schofield Barracks, Waipahu and Mililani, the weather service said.

Forecasters received a report of hail in Kunia this afternoon.

Forecasters say don’t be deceived if the weather is sunny in the morning. Bring an umbrella just in case, because rain showers could develop quickly.

Moist air and low pressure in the upper atmosphere is creating unstable weather conditions with the possibility of heavy rainfall and thundershowers, forecasters say.

Forecaster Derek Wroe said cold air in the upper atmosphere mixing with warmer air below sets up a condition ripe for occasional hail.

“Whenever you have cold air on top of warmer air … it creates an unstable condition,” Wroe said. “And the air mass on the upper level trough appears to be a bit cooler than normal.”

On Oahu, hail was last reported in Nanakuli in February 2009, Wroe said. Hail was also reported on the Kona side of the Big Island in 2008.

Big Island summits are under a winter storm warning with ice and snow making travel difficult.

The showers have been isolated and heavy, with some areas getting heavy rain and others no rain at all. Two inches of rain fell in Lualualei yesterday and a half-inch fell at Wheeler Airfield.

Sunnier weather may return tomorrow into the weekend, but computer models disagree about whether skies will clear or if our current unstable and hazy conditions will continue through the weekend, forecasters say.

Tradewinds are not expected to return until early next week. Or winds could remain light and variable. Forecast models show high pressure developing north of the islands, which could send us tradewinds. But if the high pressure develops too close to the state, winds will be light and may not bring us much relief from the vog and haze of the past week.

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