Friday | January 20, 2017
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Downed trees, power outages in Iselle’s wake

When Iselle finally hit the Big Island it had been downgraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm, but the cyclone still left considerable damage in its wake and some areas of the island continue to be impacted.

At 8 a.m. today, the center of the storm was passing to the south of Maui, but there are still areas of the Big Island that are seeing significant storm conditions, according to county Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira.

“Ka’u, parts of Puna and Hamakua are still being impacted, so the storm still hasn’t completely left the island yet,” Oliveira said. “We’re telling residents in those areas that we’re keeping the shelters open and encouraging them to stay if they’re already in a shelter. If not, they should still stay at home because the winds are still at considerable speeds and it is still raining in those areas.”

The National Weather Service in a written statement said the storm was about 85 miles west of Kailua-Kona with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

Oliveira said that Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250) is still closed, as is Highway 132 between Pahoa and Nanawale Estates and Mamalahoa Highway (Highway 11) between the 55 and 63 mile markers in Ka’u.

“We have Highway 11 with flooding in the Kawa flats, Naalehu area, so it’s not passable at this time. So we know those communities are isolated or cut off,” he said.

“We are asking people to bear with us. We are making every effort to restore power with HELCO and to clear roadways. It’s just gonna take a little bit of time. Resources are being dispatched in every direction to try to address the islandwide impact.”

Hawaii Electric Light Co. is implementing a rotating power interruption program island wide — also known as rolling blackouts — due to insufficient generation.

“In our last conversation with HELCO last night, they had made significant strides to reduce the number of customers without power,” Oliveira said. “At one point, they got it down to 21,000 customers without power, which was a huge improvement. … The challenges they have are that they’re stretched thin with power lines not only down, but entangled in the trees. It’s gonna take a little bit of time with a coordinated effort between HELCO, tree trimmers, our Public Works department and others.

“If residents, with all good intentions, try to do this themselves, they could end up getting hurt. Some of these lines may still be energized. And if they damage the lines or the poles, that could delay the restoration of power in their areas. So if people could be a little bit patient, we’d really appreciate it.”

Mayor Billy Kenoi, who said responders are in “recovery-response mode” said those who call HELCO at 969-6666 should get the street number or utility pole number closest to the downed lines.

“We’ve got to assume that every downed line is live,” he said.

Kenoi urged people who don’t have to work to stay home or if they are in shelters, to remain there.

“Schools are closed. All government offices are closed. Everybody who’s working is well prepared. Our parks and pools will remain closed. Our transfer stations will remain closed throughout the day. Our transportation system (Hele On Bus) has been suspended throughout the day. Hopefully, tomorrow morning, we’ll see a resumption of service.”

Barney Sheffield of the American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter said this morning the agency’s stolen truck was found this morning in Papaikou.

“They (the police) said they’re not sure what kind of condition it was in. They asked me to come get it but I’m too busy right now.”

Sheffield said the agency’s emergency supplies were in a separate trailer that was not hitched to the Ford pickup.

Email John Burnett at


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