Darby continues its trek across the islands today but failed to deliver its threatened punch Saturday, reaching Hawaii island as a marginal tropical storm, with heavy rains, gusty winds and dangerous surf but causing no major damage.
The storm made landfall with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph at 2 p.m. on the Kau Coast, about 10 miles from where the much more powerful Tropical Storm Iselle came ashore in early August 2014. Unlike Iselle, which caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, Darby’s initial reported aftermath was limited to flooded roads, downed trees and scattered power outages on Hawaii island and Maui.
Still, Darby remains a tropical cyclone with the potential to drench Oahu and Kauai today, and government officials are urging the public to stay vigilant and safe until the threat clears the state, likely by Monday. High winds and surf and potentially heavy rain, including thunderstorms, are still possible.
>> Today: Expect more stormy weather and high surf, especially for Oahu and Kauai. The intensity of the storms will depend on how close Darby tracks to the islands and how it fares overnight.
>> Monday: Forecasters say the weather will settle down after Darby passes but will be replaced by hot and humid conditions for several days. Tradewind relief is expected later in the week.
Oahu will open seven shelters this morning and close Hanauma Bay for the day because of Darby’s high surf. The city’s Emergency Operations Center is also open for the duration of the storm.
“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said at a news conference late Saturday afternoon.
Rainfall totals on Saturday showed the storm dumped a lot of rain in some areas and almost no rain in other areas of Hawaii island and Maui. In the 24-hour period ending at 7 p.m. Saturday, Darby dropped just over 7 inches of rain at West Wailuaiki in East Maui and more than 4.5 inches in Puu Kukui in leeward Upcountry Maui, while Kihei saw almost no rain.
Over cooler waters
On Hawaii island, more than 6.3 inches fell at Kawainui Stream, about 4.8 inches at Kahua Ranch, and 4.6 inches in upper Waimea. But Waikoloa saw no rain.
Forecasters said a weaker Darby was expected to begin turning northwest overnight on a path toward Maui County, Oahu and Kauai.
At 8 p.m., Darby had emerged back over waters west of Hawaii island, about 25 miles southwest of Kailua-Kona, with 40 mph maximum sustained winds, and moving west at 11 mph, forecasters at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said. The entire state remained under a tropical storm warning.
There is a high surf advisory for Oahu, Kauai and Molokai until 6 p.m. today; a high surf warning for Maui and Hawaii island until 6 p.m.; and a flash flood watch for Maui County, Hawaii island and Oahu through tonight.
The storm was moving over cooler waters and encountering wind shear after passing over Hawaii island and was likely to become a tropical depression today. But it was still packing a lot of rain.
Exactly how much rain and where it will fall remained uncertain.
The projected path and timing of the storm was expected to take it over or near Maui County overnight, over or near Oahu today, and over or near Kauai tonight into Monday.
“It could pass right over (Oahu), but it could shift a little bit to the south or a little bit to the north,” said Chevy Chevalier, a meteorologist with the hurricane center. “It’s going to be a rain producer. There’s still a chance for flooding.”
On Friday, Hawaii island officials and residents were preparing for the worst when Darby churned just east of Hilo with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, and higher gusts. The public was warned to expect more than a foot of rain in some places. But by the time it made landfall Saturday, the storm had weakened considerably, with winds just 1 mph higher than the minimum threshold for a tropical storm.
Big Island Civil Defense Administrator Ed Teixeira said he was surprised that the structure of the storm held together as well as it did after it made landfall near Pahala at 2 p.m., then traveled across the southern half of the island for the rest of the afternoon.
He had hoped that the storm would begin to shred as it passed over the slopes of Mauna Loa, which would “maybe help soften it up so we wouldn’t see too many of the symptoms that go with a system like that, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”
There were reports of high wind speeds in North and South Kohala earlier in the day, which Teixeira attributed to outer bands of wind that climbed to higher ground, and sped up as it did so, causing additional rain and runoff.
Kailua-Kona faced those same kinds of threats as the storm passed south of it, he said Saturday evening.
“As the storm moves out off of Kailua-Kona into the water, the tail end is still coming around,” Teixeira said. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the wind doesn’t do too much, and then we’re going to have to now concentrate on the flooding issues and flooding problems.”
Teixeira emphasized that the threat is not over just because Darby is weakening. He recalled that in 2009, Hurricane Felicia was downgraded all the way to a tropical depression and then a remnant low, “and I saw that storm run across the state for five days causing flash flood warnings from here all the way to Kauai,” he said. “Even a remnant low can cause us a lot of problems.”
The center of Darby made landfall below Pahala near the area where Tropical Storm Iselle reached the island two years ago, which was “pretty amazing,” said Julia Neal, who operates the Pahala Plantation Cottages.
Iselle was far more destructive, she said. “So far here, the rain has basically started to be steady,” Neal said late Saturday afternoon. “There’s no lightning, there was some distant thunder for a while.
“So far, it’s been very mild,” she said. “There’s no wind. It’s totally quiet outside except for rain.”
County officials closed six emergency shelters at 4 p.m., but said shelters would remain open overnight in Keaau, Pahoa, Honokaa and Kealakehe. County bus service was scheduled to resume Sunday morning after being shut down for the duration of the storm.
There were reports of power outages throughout the day, but Teixeira said those problems were “really nothing that’s getting out of hand.”
Rhea Lee-Moku, public information officer for Hawaiian Electric Light Co., said power was cut to about 2,050 customers in North Kohala at about 1:10 p.m. after a power pole caught fire. Service was restored to about 270 customers in North Kohala at 6:20 p.m., and the utility planned to restore service to the rest by 11 p.m. Saturday.
Smaller outages affected a variety of areas including Kalapana Seaview, Pohoiki, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Ainaloa Estates, and Leilani Estates, although in some cases only a few streets in those subdivisions were affected, she said.
“We have some outages down in the Puna district, and almost all of it is because of trees,” she said. “Trees have fallen on the lines, some lines were broken.”
Reports to Civil Defense indicated several thousand people in Hawaiian Beaches and Hawaiian Shores also lost power for a time. Lee-Moku said that was caused by a tree falling on power equipment on Pahoa Village Road, which affected both Hawaiian Beaches and parts of Ainaloa.
Service was restored to Ainaloa residents Wednesday evening, but Lee-Moku said she did not know how many customers in Hawaiian Beaches were without power.
Maui’s blustery day
On Maui, which was in Darby’s direct sights until it took a turn to the south Saturday morning, county officials reported temporary road closures due to flooding or landslides, including Hana Highway, and Maui Electric Co. responded to sporadic Upcountry outages.
Maui firefighters were called to Iao Stream where fast-flowing waters nearly swept away an 11-year-old boy and his father, who went into the water to save him. Firefighters arriving on the scene at about 3:30 p.m. found the boy and his father stranded on an island in the middle of the stream.
The Fire Department helicopter took father and son to a landing zone on the mauka side of Waiehu Beach Road, where paramedics treated the boy for minor abrasions.
Still, for much of the Valley Isle, Saturday was just another blustery day at the beach.
Kalepolepo Park in Kihei saw gusts of about 25 mph on the beach and gray squalls dumping heavy rain several miles offshore. Despite the park being closed by the county, some people were still sunbathing, covering their eyes when the wind picked up and blew sand across the beach.
With one eye making sure her personal belongings did not blow away, London visitor Valeria Cavaye said she was on a short visit to Maui with her son, Misha.
“It’s bad timing, but very interesting,” she said. “We’d like the sun with no wind.”
Detroit resident Natalie Bell, sometimes shading her eyes from windswept sand, said she was making the best of the weather conditions.
Bell said she imagined some visitors might be upset because of canceled snorkeling cruises, but you can’t control the weather. “You can’t really be upset. It’s Mother Nature,” Bell said.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Kevin Dayton reported from Hilo, Gary T. Kubota from Maui and Craig Gima from Oahu.