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Unstable weather brings waterspouts, lightning; power restored to 60,000


Unstable weather conditions late today led to widespread power outages, waterspouts in waters off Honolulu, and a spectacular thunder and lightning show. 

The National Weather Service at 9 p.m. canceled a flash flood warning for Oahu.

Waterspouts were spotted off of the South Shore at about 5:50 p.m. and dissipated about 12 minutes later.

There were enough thunderstorm cells remaining through 8 p.m. that another could have appeared, said Tom Birchard, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service.

A funnel cloud formed over Mauna Kea near Bradshaw Field this morning.

The air mass will remain unstable tomorrow, “and we could see thunderstorms again but it won’t be quite as widespread as today,” said National Weather Service forecaster John Bravender.  

In Waikiki, there was heavy flooding on Kalakaua Avenue near Seaside that closed the road for a while but it was reopened about 8 p.m.

Thunderstorms were focused on Lanai, Molokai and Oahu, the National Weather Service said.

Rainfall rates were from one to two inches were reported in Kailua, with three to four inches of water on Pali Highway at about 5 p.m., the weather service said.

Thunderstorms on Maui and the Big Island have weakened, but there were flood advisories for Molokai, Lanai and Maui.

Hail was reported on higher elevations of Maui and the Big Island with the thunderstorms earlier this afternoon.

HECO spokesman Darren Pai said power outages included most the Windward side, as well as Hawaii Kai, parts of Aina Haina, and Manoa. Pai said Hawaiian Electric was looking into the cause of the outages, which appear linked to a single problem.

“Hawaiian Electric Company crews have completed restoring power to approximately 60,000 customers affected by an outage that resulted from severe weather that hit Oahu late this afternoon,” HECO said in a press release.

“At about 5 p.m., customers in Kaneohe, Kailua, Waimanalo and parts of East Honolulu, including Hawaii Kai through Aina Haina, parts of Kaimuki, and Manoa lost power. Crews were able to begin restoring power to some customers beginning at approximately 6:30 p.m.

“The outage appears to have been caused when two major transmission lines serving the Koolau and Pukele substations went out of service due to possible lightning strikes,” the company said.

Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said firefighters responded to about a dozen water evacuations between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. mostly in East Honolulu, including Kaimuki, Waialae, Kahala and Waikiki.

Firefighters also rescued people trapped in nine elevators mostly in Waikiki and Makiki, Seelig said.

The fire department also responded to three arcing electrical wires and a light pole smoking in Aiea, Waianae and Waialae, but no lines were down, Seelig said.

In Waianae, a family on Ala Hema Street reported a mast antenna for CB radio located in their yard was struck by lightning.

The lightning energized the wire that led into the house and caused speakers to spark and smolder, causing a large flash and pop inside the house, Seelig said.

The woman of the house told firefighters her husband went unconscious, but he denied going unconscious.

When firefighters examined the man, he appeared to be in a daze, but refused medical treatment.

The house had some burn marks inside caused by the lightning, but there was no structural damage.

Palolo resident Mary Adamski said she noticed the outage in her home at about 5:15 p.m. and power appeared out also in St. Louis Heights and at least part of Wilhemina Rise.

“It’s pouring and thundering,” Adamski said a little after 6 p.m.

Makiki resident Lori Ohtani said she looked out her kitchen window this afternoon and saw what she thought might have been a lightning strike.

“I saw a big flash, like a bolt of lightning, on the other side of a small cottage, then a ladder fell,” she said. “I don’t know if it was the lightning or just a coincidence.”

In Manoa, some University of Hawaii student dormitory residents were on the third floor of the Hale Wainani low-rise dormitory when they saw lightning and water spouts.

“I saw a lightning flash near my dorm,” said Shanelle Solomon, a UH senior. “It was a bolt of lightning. It was like a purple string in the sky, like straight down.”

Reya Jean Fernandez, a UH senior, said, “the lightning struck the top of the Wainani high-rise dorm,” and added that from a distance, she saw lightning hit other places on the UH campus.

“There’s no power here,” she said shortly after 7 p.m., adding that although candles are not permitted in the dorms, some have them. “That’s the only thing that’s keeping us alive. There’s no Internet, no elecricity, and we are going into finals week. I had online homework due, and we’re all screwed. You can’t see by candlelight. The light is too low.”

Fernandez said she also saw the water spouts from the dorms.

“We could totally see like sister spouts, a good minute and a half,” she said.

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