Winds, rain knock out power for thousands


By TOM CALLIS and COLIN M. STEWART

Tribune-Herald staff writer

Tropical Storm Flossie is expected to continue to fizzle as it moves westward after barely brushing the Big Island on Monday.

The storm, which appeared to be on a collision course over the weekend, was pulled north by a high-pressure system, providing gusty winds in some areas and heavy surf but lacking the punch that was predicted.

Hawaii County offices and bus service, closed in anticipation of the worst, are expected to return to normal operations today. Hawaii County Civil Defense’s emergency operation center was also planned to be downsized through Monday evening.

The County Council’s Public Safety and Mass Transit Committee meeting scheduled for today was cancelled.

“If you look at the potential the storm had, as it approached the island, it was definitely posing a significant threat to the community,” said Darryl Oliveira, county Civil Defense director.

“All we can do is really try to prepare.”

By Monday afternoon, lower Puna and parts of Ka‘u appeared to have been the most impacted, with storm-strength winds knocking out power to about 5,000 Hawaii Electric Light Co. customers between Volcano and Panaewa.

Traffic on Highway 132 was also diverted through Leilani Estates after a tree fell near Lava Tree State Park.

At the Hilo International Airport, 40 mph gusts were recorded and a small outbuilding was reported to have been damaged.

Meanwhile, there were no injuries related to the storm reported across the state, according to Adria Estribou, a spokeswoman for the Healthcare Association of Hawaii.

“There’s been nothing that we know of related to Flossie,” she said early Monday evening. “It’s just been the usual ER activity. It seems we’re off to a good start, just a few more islands to go.

The National Weather Service on Monday was still predicting 2 to 4 inches of rain to fall that day, with the potential of flash flooding, but Oliveira said he was seeing little evidence of precipitation as of late afternoon.

Waves also reached about 12 feet on the windward side, prompting some surfers to take advantage.

Mike Cantin, NWS warning coordinator meteorologist, said Flossie was expected to be downgraded to a tropical depression today as it approaches Kauai.

“Overall, it’s not going to be a big deal,” he said, referring to wind speed.

The county opened nine locations across the isle as emergency shelters Monday.

Oliveira said Monday afternoon that two people had each used the shelters in Pahoa and Waimea, and one person showed up at one in Kohala.

Three volunteers — shelter manager Yukie Ohashi, Joe Stephens and Molly Sagawa — stood at the ready Monday afternoon at the entrance to Aunty Sally’s Luau Hale in Hilo, which, apart from rows of foldable chairs and tables, was empty.

“We haven’t had any clients come in today. In fact, we’ve mainly had journalists coming by to find out if we had any clients come in. … Which we didn’t,” Ohashi said, laughing.

“It’s been a real blessing for Hilo,” she added in reference to the limited damage caused by the storm, “but we don’t know what’s happening elsewhere at this point.”

Ohashi, who had already been there for about 10 hours, said that she and the other volunteers would be ready to help any area residents should they need shelter as the storm continued to play out Monday afternoon.

“We’re ready to stay open as long as Civil Defense needs us to,” she said.

Overall, Oliveira said the storm provided the county and its residents an opportunity to prepare for a worse scenario.

“We identified things we can do better,” he said.

“It reminds the community of how vulnerable we are.”

Email Colin Stewart at cstewart@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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