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Big Isle residents ride out Ana as storm surf rolls in

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    Hurricane Ana swung its way south of Hawaii Island Friday morning. Surfers and onlookers came to watch the high surf at Pohiki Beach.

A crowd of Hawaii island surfers and beachgoers gathered along southeastern shoreline Friday to marvel at the high surf brought by Hurricane Ana. 

"I actually went bodyboarding on one of those waves today," said surfer Josh Tucker before leaving Pohoiki in Puna, where the surf measured between 8 feet and 15 feet. 

"Whoa, look at those waves," said Pahoa resident Donna Olson.

The National Weather Service said surf along the Kau and southeast-facing coast of the Puna districts could reach 10 to 20 feet overnight. Surf is expected to remain elevated through Saturday morning before starting to subside. Elevated surf of up to 12 feet is also possible along the Kona Coast on Saturday, the weather service said. 

Ana’s center was expected to pass about 150 miles southwest of Hawaii island Friday night, and about 175 miles southwest of the rest of the islands over the weekend. 

"Right now, we’re conservatively and cautiously optimistic that the storm will be passing south of the island," said Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira during a phone call with the media Friday afternoon.

Hawaii island is expected to remain under a tropical storm and flash flood watch until 6 p.m. Sunday.

Oliveira said the county was still preparing for flooding and heavy rains, although there hadn’t been any problems as of late Friday. 

"No tree issues or road closures, so it looks like we’re doing well," he said. 

Heavy rainfall was in the forecast, with accumulations expected to reach between 6 and 8 inches, but possibly up to 12 inches. 

All American Red Cross shelters were empty as of Friday evening, and Oliveira said the county reduced the number of shelters to the following locations: Waiakea High School, Pahoa High and Intermediate School, Kau High and Pahala Elementary School, Konawaena High School and Kealakehe High School.

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant also remained offline until the effects of the storm subside. 

Oliveira said work continues on Chain of Craters Road, an emergency access road being built in preparation for lava coming from the Kilauea Volcano that’s heading toward Pahoa’s main highway. However, thundershowers and lightning could stall construction temporarily, he said. 

"They’ll be working as long as possible and as long as it’s safe to do so," he said. 

Oliveira reported the lava had not made any progress and remained a little over a half-mile from Apaa Street near Pahoa.

Although Ana had the spotlight Friday, Oliveira announced that the county’s appeal for individual assistance for residents affected by Tropical Storm Iselle in August was denied Thursday. 

According to a letter the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the county’s request sent Oct. 7 did not require a reversal of the initial decision rejecting individual assistance. 

The state requested a major disaster declaration that would seek individual assistance for residents and households affected by the tropical storm. 

In September, President Barack Obama declared a major disaster existed in the state and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts areas affected by the storm. However, individual assistance would not be provided under that declaration. 

Susan Akiyama with Hawaii County’s Office of Housing and Community Development said Iselle victims looking for low-cost individual loans should check in with the Small Business Administration, starting Wednesday. Akiyama said the SBA will be in the area for three weeks to help people seeking assistance.

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