By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Hawaii Island residents got their first significant dose of stormy winter weather Sunday evening, with heavy downpours and strong winds at locations up and down the windward coast.
A high surf advisory remained in effect Monday for various northern and eastern shores across the state, following the closure Sunday evening of Bayfront Highway in Hilo around 10 p.m. due to high surf and roadway debris.
The highway remained closed Monday afternoon, with waves continuing to crash up over the road. The road would likely remain closed through Monday, explained Darryl Oliveira, Civil Defense administrator for Hawaii County.
“It’s a lot easier to be proactive and keep it closed as a precaution than it is to open it back up, and then have the surf kick up again and we have to close it again,” he said.
“We’re continuing to monitor the waves and heights of the high tide. When we closed Bayfront (Sunday) night, it was mainly due to rocks and water coming up, with the surf conditions. … Any kind of rocks or debris are going to pose a traffic hazard.”
Oliveira explained that the Bayfront section of the highway is known for flooding, and residents are used to dealing with its closure from time to time during the rainy months.
“It doesn’t happen real often, but often enough that the community is used to seeing it,” he said. “If people are driving through there and trying to avoid rocks and water, it poses a skidding and slipping avoidance issue.”
Oliveira added that road crews responded to three minor landslides and a downed tree during the evening.
“At Hakalau Mill Road we had a tree down, then we had flooding at Honomu/Akaka Falls Road, and sporadically from Hakalau Bridge to Ookala. There were moderate to heavy rains washing out rocks, mud and vegetation onto the roadways,” he said.
A spokesman for the Hawaii County Fire Department on Monday said that firefighters did not respond to any serious weather-related calls Sunday evening or Monday morning.
“We did have a boat in the bay that lost its mooring (Sunday). We went out and secured it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hawaii Electric Light Co. workers responded to a few minor power outages as a result of the high winds.
“We got through last night relatively well,” said Roger Keller, HELCO’s manager for the distribution department. “We had a few customers out due to trees or limbs that fell, but none of them were long outages.”
About 60 customers were left without power for a short while after a tree collapsed in Keaukaha, he said, with smaller outages reported in Hawaiian Paradise Park, Waimea and Keaau.
According to readings on National Weather Service rain gauges, various locations in East Hawaii saw more than 2 inches of rainfall within a 24-hour period. Among them, Honokaa had 5.56 inches as of 8 a.m. Monday, while Piihonua logged 4.33 inches, Waiakea Uka totaled 3.72 inches, and Hilo International Airport had 2.53 inches.
The rainstorm came on the heels of a report from the National Weather Service that this year’s wet season — October through April — is anticipated to be slightly wetter than in years past.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.