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Roof collapses at Farrington High as storms pummel Oahu

Gordon Y.K. Pang
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Honolulu firefighters survey the damage of the collapsed roof at Farrington High School.
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A portion of the roof collapsed at the Farrington High School auditorium this afternoon during heavy thunderstorm.
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A portion of the roof collapsed at the Farrington High School auditorium this afternoon during heavy thunderstorm.

The roof of Farrington High School’s auditorium collapsed this afternoon as thunderstorms lashed Oahu with heavy rain, flooding and hail.

Shortly before 3:30 p.m., emergency dispatch transmissions reported that the roof of the Farrington High School auditorium in Kalihi had collapsed. Initial reports were that no one injured. Today was a holiday for public school students.

Farrington High principal Al Carganilla said “basically the whole roof over the seats collapsed.”

While the assessment was still underway, initial indications are the collapse of the 1,100-seat auditorium was rain-related since he received a call shortly after the rain stopped, Carganilla said.

“Thank goodness it was a holiday and nobody was in there,” he said, noting that a slam poetry contest expected to be attended by 100-200 people had been scheduled to take place there tonight.

“In a few hours, there could have been kids in there,” he said.

About 20 to 25 members of Dancer’s Delite, a dance group made up of students from Farrington High and Kalakaua Middle School, were just outside the auditorium preparing for tonight’s Christmas Kalihi parade when they heard a loud roar that sounded like thunder, said Sherly Doropan, the instructor’s assistant for the group.

It wasn’t obvious what happened until someone opened the doors to the auditorium and people could see “the middle of the rooftop caved in,” said Doropan, 20. 

A man who does lighting and sound for New Hope Church, which holds services in the auditorium on weekends, was in the sound and lighting booth when the incident occurred but was not hurt, Doropan said. “Lucky thing (the area over) the booth didn’t come down.”

Doropan, a Farrington graduate, said she was stunned that the storm could have caused the collapse since she’s seen it withstand heavier rains over the years.

She said she and others will feel a deep sense of loss from the auditorium’s destruction, noting that it is a focal point for assemblies and many other school activities. “That’s a lot of memories for us,” Doropan said.

The National Weather Service issued a flood advisory for Oahu that expired at 5 p.m.; another for Maui County expired at 5:15 p.m.

The Oahu flood advisory covered Pearl City, Halawa and Waimalu. The Maui advisory covers Makena.

Hail was reportedly falling in Pearl City and H-1 westbound lanes near Waipahu were flooded, according to HPD.

“At 2:51 p.m. HST, radar showed heavy rain near Pearl City or about 9 miles northwest of Honolulu. The area of heavy rain was slowly moving east-southeast,” the Oahu flood advisory said.

An earlier severe thunderstorm warning for Aiea, Salt Lake, Honolulu and Halawa expired at 3:15 p.m. The warning for Central Oahu areas had said that the public in the affected areas should prepare for damaging winds, lightning and quarter-sized hail, officials said.

Storms were also reported in the Mililani area.

The storms are part of an unsettled pattern bringing a variety of weather to the islands this weekend — from snow on Mauna Kea to surf on north and west shores. Humid, southerly Kona winds are also bringing vog to Oahu and the possibility of thunderstorms.

Winds are from the south, bringing humid conditions, vog and the possibility of more thunderstorms developing in the afternoon because of the humid conditions.

Forecasters expect the cooling tradewinds could return sometime Saturday. 

But a weakening storm system is headed toward the islands and could arrive late Sunday, bringing some rain.

Snow fell on Mauna Kea Thursday and the road to the summit was closed this morning.

Forecasters say a small north swell has dropped below advisory levels. However, a reinforcement swell should arrive later tonight, bringing surf to north and west shores. Another moderate swell may come in on Monday.


Star-Advertiser reporter Craig Gima contributed to this report.

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