Saturday | August 19, 2017
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Strong winds force cruise ship to skip Kona

KAILUA-KONA — The cruise ship Pride of America’s scheduled call Wednesday in Kailua-Kona was canceled because of unusual and high winds associated with a weather system to the west.

“The safety and security of our guests is our top priority at all times,” said Vanessa Picariello, senior director of public relations for Norwegian Cruise Line, which owns and operates the ship. “The high winds in Kona today made for unsafe tendering conditions and, therefore, the vessel was unable to make her scheduled call.”

The high winds, coming from the south, are the result of a surface low pressure system centered about 100 miles northwest of Kauai, said Tom Birchard, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

That system already has deluged other parts of the state with rain.

East of that system, Birchard said, is a line of heavy showers and thunderstorms that mostly have affected the islands from Kauai to Maui.

On the Big Island, he said, the primary impact has been to the upper slopes of Mauna Kea.

“Thus far, the amount of rain and precipitation at the lower levels on the Big Island is nowhere near as the amount we’ve seen on the other islands,” he said. “Anytime we have winds out of the south, it’s unusual.”

Many of the harbors and landings are built for trade winds coming from the east. When the wind comes from the south, the sites become exposed, resulting in “weird accelerations in different places.”

For example, at about 2 p.m. Wednesday, he said, sustained winds at Kona International Airport at Keahole were measured at 22 mph with gusts at about 33 mph.

He likened it to places such as Upolu Point and South Point, which typically are windy from easterly trade winds.

“So, Keahole’s kinda become like Upolu or South Point today with this wind direction,” Birchard said. “It’s normally the trades are blasting at Upolu and South Point, now we’ve turned the winds 90 degrees to the south, so they’re accelerating around Cape Kumukahi (in Puna) and in Kona.”

As the weather system moves on, Birchard said, southerly winds remain a concern, having the potential to bring locally gusty winds to the area.

By tonight going into Friday, he said, the winds should greatly decrease.

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