UPDATE: Flooded Roads and Fallen trees as Tropical Storm Iselle Makes Landfall

By Brian Shields

Thu Aug 7th, 2014 4:22pm America/Los_Angeles

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HONOLULU (AP) — The National Weather Service has downgraded Iselle to a tropical storm.

Iselle was classified as a tropical storm 11 p.m. Thursday Hawaii Standard Time when its winds slowed to 70 mph, putting it below the minimum of 74 mph for a hurricane.

The storm is weakening because of several factors, including wind shear chopping at the system and the Big Island’s terrain above the water, said Chris Brenchley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

“It can start to feel the drain,” he said. “As wind blows into the terrain, the terrain kind of redirects the wind.”

Nevertheless, Iselle is expected to be the first tropical storm to hit the state in 22 years, and another hurricane is following in its path. Hurricane Julio, a Category 3 storm, is about 1,000 miles behind in the Pacific.

Iselle, which is moving at 10 mph, was expected to pass overnight across the Big Island and then send rain and high winds to the rest of the state Friday. The storm’s predicted track had it skirting just south of the other islands.

Even before its center touched land, tropical storm Iselle knocked out power on parts of the Big Island, one of the least populated islands. Iselle was expected to pass over the Big Island, known for coffee fields, volcanoes and black sand beaches, early Friday morning and then send rain and high winds to the rest of the state later in the day.

As of 11 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, Iselle was about 50 miles southeast of Hilo, National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Lau said. It was traveling at 10 mph, he said. The storm’s predicted track had it skirting just south of the other islands.

“Whoop, there goes the power,” 29-year-old Andrew Fujimura of Puna said as he spoke with an Associated Press reporter Thursday night. “It’s fine. We’ll just go to bed early tonight, I guess.”

 


 

UPDATES

This is what Associated Press reporters on the scene are learning as the first hurricane in 22 years bears down on Hawaii.

7:30 a.m. HST

Kau coffee farmers are trying to navigate flooded roads and fallen trees to assess whether there’s any damage to their crops.

Randy Stevens, general manager of Kau Coffee Mill, said “It’s raining so hard we’re just trying to get the roads opened up so we can get to the fields.”

The heavy rain in the southeastern Kau district is a vast difference from the relatively drier Kona region, where coffee is also grown.

6:50 a.m. HST

Maui County spokesman Ryan Piros said Hana Highway at mile post 26 near Nahiku on Maui is closed due to six trees about 3 to 4 feet in diameter across the roadway. Power lines are down in the area.

6:45 a.m. HST

Washington state couple Tracy Black and Chris Kreifels expected the storms to dampen their outdoor wedding, planned for Saturday on the northwest side of the Big Island. But on Friday morning, things were quiet and dry in Waimea, Black said, giving her hope for their ceremony on a ranch.

Only one of their mainland guests decided not to make the trip to Hawaii.

6:30 a.m. HST

Kona coffee farmer Bruce Corker said “We’re all buttoned up, but nothing happened. I’m looking out the window right now and there’s light rain coming down and zero wind.” There was no rain until about 5:30 a.m.

6:00 a.m. HST

It’s starting to look like a normal, albeit rainy and windy, morning in Honolulu. A jogger made his way along Ala Moana Boulevard and a man carrying an umbrella walked a small dog in the light rain.

5:00 a.m. HST

The driving rain against Amanda Schaefer’s windows kept her up in Haiku, on Maui’s north shore.

“We are getting some strong gusts,” she said. “It’s still so dark.”

She’s listening to a ham radio but hasn’t heard of any reports of significant damage or injuries.

3:43 a.m. HST

The National Weather Service says the eye of Tropical Storm Iselle has made landfall on Hawaii’s Big Island.

It is the first hurricane or tropical storm to hit the state in 22 years, and another hurricane is following in its path. Hurricane Julio, a Category 3 storm, is about 1,000 miles behind in the Pacific.

Iselle’s eye swept onto shore about 5 miles east of Pahala with winds at 60 mph at 2:30 a.m. Hawaii Standard Time.

3:20 a.m. HST

John Drummond of Hawaii County Civil Defense gives an update on the geothermal plant that released hydrogen sulfide in the Puna area. Residents were told to go to a Pahoa shelter if they were feeling effects from the smell. He said, “I’m not sure if anyone actually went.”

Drummond said so far the extent of damage across the Big Island has been limited to downed trees and some roof damage. There were reports of trees on homes, but no 911 calls were made asking for help with those tree.

3 a.m.

In a Honolulu neighborhood at the edge of Waikiki, winds are howling, a sign that the storm’s outer bands are affecting the entire island chain.

2:45 a.m. HST

Kimo Makuakane and his family waited up all night for Iselle to hit the Big Island. While the rest of his family slept early Friday, Makuakane continued to wait for the storm to make landfall. He said from his Hilo home, “Lots of rain, very windy here.” No one is out on the streets. He can hear the trees rustling and roofs rattling.

2 a.m. HST

Maui County spokesman Ryan Piros was up in the mayor’s office in Wailuku, listening to a mostly quiet police scanner. He says it’s raining outside and the wind is cranking.

1:54 a.m. HST

Tropical Storm Iselle weakened further early Friday as it clamored toward the Hawaii shore. The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said the system’s maximum sustained winds slowed from 70 mph to 60 mph. Iselle is expected to weaken further over the coming two days.
12 a.m. HST

The National Weather Service issues a flash-flood warning for the Big Island.

11:31 p.m. HST

Maui County officials say about 2,700 customers lost power in parts of Pukalani, an inland town roughly 10 miles from Maui’s main airport. Power was restored for another 120 customers who lost electricity because of wind debris hitting power lines.

11:05 p.m. HST

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Brenchley says Tropical Storm Iselle is about 30 miles from hitting Hawaii’s Big Island, traveling about 10 mph. The storm’s center is expected to hit south of Hilo.

10:50 p.m. HST

The National Weather Service downgrades Iselle from a hurricane to a tropical storm, saying the system has sustained winds of 70 mph as its eye approaches the Big Island about 50 miles east of Hilo.

9:45 p.m. HST

National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Lau says Hurricane Iselle is about 55 miles southeast of Hilo, Hawaii, traveling toward the Big Island at 15 mph and slowing down.

9:15 p.m. HST

The Polynesian Cultural Center, a popular tourist attraction near Oahu’s north shore, announces it will be closed Friday because of the storm.

9:05 p.m. HST

On Maui, power to a water treatment plant went out, prompting county officials to ask Kula residents in the middle of the island to conserve water.

8:20 p.m. HST

A geothermal plant on the Big Island released an unknown amount of steam containing hydrogen sulfide, a smelly, poisonous compound. Crews were working to control the release and monitor the emissions, while nearby residents were urged to evacuate if they experience discomfort, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi’s office said.

8:14 p.m. HST

Oahu plans to run shuttle service to evacuation centers from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., Honolulu’s Department of Emergency Management said.

6:49 p.m. HST

Gov. Neil Abercrombie says President Barack Obama has been briefed on Hurricane Iselle, according to Abercrombie’s official Twitter account.

5:57 p.m. HST

Hurricane Julio has strengthened into a Category 3 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. The National Hurricane Center said Thursday evening it expects the storm to slowly weaken by Friday night.

Julio is more than 1,000 miles behind Hurricane Iselle, which is expected to make landfall on the Big Island overnight.

5:17 p.m. HST

Hawaii County Civil Defense officials say power is out in two communities on the Big Island, including Waimea, a town of about 9,200 people near the island’s north shore, and Puna, a district scattered with residents south of Hilo.

An evacuation shelter in Pahoa with at least 140 evacuees also lost power. Electrical crews are working to restore power, but there’s no estimate of when it would come back online.

4:15 p.m. HST

Passengers at the Honolulu International Airport spilled out to the curb Thursday, and lines wrapped around the TSA screening area as people tried to leave before the storm hit.

After high winds hit Maui, California couple Rudy Cruz and Ashley Dochnahl left the island earlier than planned, getting to Oahu but failing to secure a flight back home.

“We were trying to beat it, but we now will have to ride it out,” Cruz said.

4:15 p.m. HST

The Hawaii National Guard sent the bulk of its aircraft to bases on the West Coast on Thursday morning so they wouldn’t be damaged by the storm. Lt. Col. Charles Anthony says tankers can bring back people and supplies to deal with damage if needed.

3:44 p.m. HST

In a live interview on KHON-TV, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi says there are no major injuries or damage yet on the Big Island from the first bits of wind and rain from the outer edges of the storm.

3:44 p.m. HST

Asked at a news conference whether the state would be able to recover from Hurricane Iselle and respond to Hurricane Julio at the same time, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said: “We can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

3:38 p.m. HST

American Red Cross Hawaii Chapter CEO Coralie Matayoshi says people are flowing into shelters on the Big Island.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense says one is already at capacity. Thirty-nine people are at the Hilo High School shelter, 135 at Keaau High School and 146 people at Pahoa High and Intermediate School.

3:35 p.m. HST

Denise Laitinen on the Big Island says she has boarded up her windows, stocked up on food and water, and is ready for the storms.

“It’s getting more windy, and it’s raining pretty good,” she said. “I feel good about being prepared for anything these storms bring us.”

3:30 p.m. HST

Nearly 30 flights from several airlines, including Delta, United, US Airways, American Air China and WestJet, were canceled Thursday, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.

2:34 p.m. HST

The National Weather Service in Honolulu says Iselle is expected hit Big Island as high end tropical storm or low end hurricane. A hurricane has sustained winds of 74 mph or higher. Iselle is 150 miles east-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii. It is moving to west-northwest at 17 mph.

2:20 p.m. HST

American Airlines and US Airways have canceled all flights leaving or going to the Big Island and Maui after 6 p.m. HST Thursday. They expect flights to resume at noon HST Friday.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority says United Airlines also canceled flights, but the carrier couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

2:04 p.m. HST

State courthouses and judiciary offices on Oahu and Kauai will be closed Friday. Big Island and Maui County courthouses closed today at noon and will remain closed Friday.

The U.S. District Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Hawaii will be closed on Friday. Depending on severity of storms, court calendars for Monday may change with little notice.

1:21 p.m. HST (4:21 p.m. PDT)

Hawaiian Airlines says interisland flights are canceled for Thursday evening in Hilo, Kona and Maui. The airline moved its Maui-Los Angeles flight up by nearly five hours. Flight No. 56 originally scheduled to depart Kahului, Maui at 9:40 p.m. will now depart at 5 p.m. and connect in Honolulu before continuing on to Los Angeles at 9 p.m.

Hurricanes Iselle and Julio Related Coverage
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PICTURES: Silicon Valley Company Tweets Pictures from the Path of Iselle and Julio
SOCIAL MEDIA: Hurricanes Take Aim at Hawaii

1:05 p.m. HST

A sports radio show from the Big Island that is broadcast statewide is spending most of its show on storm coverage, with its host saying sports can take a back seat “because, quite frankly, it’s just not the most important thing.”

12:32 p.m. HST

The U.S. Coast Guard is closing ports for Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai and the Big Island. All cargo operations at the ports will be secured by 6 p.m. Thursday.

11:46 a.m. HST

About 40 to 50 people lined up outside Menehune Water Co. just outside Honolulu to buy bottled water. Stan Nuuhiwa, who lives near Waikiki, waited two-and-a-half hours because there’s no water left to buy in town. He loaded about five cases of bottled water and a five-gallon barrel of water into his truck.

11:09 a.m. HST

Officials at various observatories are securing the 13 telescopes on Mauna Kea. Mauna Kea Observatories Support Services administrative manager Gwen Biggert says workers are removing hazards and securing loose items nearby. She says it’s starting to get gusty on the summit.

10:47 a.m. HST

Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection director Bruce Kim is reminding retailers that price gouging is a violation of state law. He says the price of commodities was frozen when the governor declared a state of emergency. He says evidence of price gouging will be investigated and prosecuted.

10:33 a.m. HST

Former National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield says hurricanes in Hawaii are such a rare event it makes it a challenge for the people who live there and aren’t used to it, sort of like the Northeast getting hit by Sandy in 2012. The good news, he said, is that the hurricanes are coming from the east where storms are weaker and the water cooler.

9:55 a.m. HST

Gov. Neil Abercrombie at a press conference Thursday stressed: “We are fully prepared today as it’s possible for us to be, institutionally.”

9:38 a.m. HST

State Attorney General David Louie said the primary elections on Saturday will go forward as planned. Early voting on the Big Island will end at 1 p.m. Thursday.

All state offices will be closed Friday. Public schools on Oahu and Kauai will be closed Friday. Officials have already announced that schools on the Big Island, Maui, Molokai and Lanai would be closed Thursday and Friday.

9:05 a.m. HST

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell has tweeted that the city is opening emergency shelters Thursday night and city bus service on Friday is canceled.

8:48 a.m. HST

The American Red Cross is pleading for the return of its only emergency truck on the Big Island. Hawaii chapter CEO Coralie Matayoshi says the white Ford F-150 truck bearing Red Cross markings was stolen in Hilo late Wednesday. The organization will have to borrow or rent a truck as Hurricane Iselle approaches the island.

8:05 a.m. HST

At the White House, President Barack Obama was briefed by his homeland security adviser on preparations for the storms that are threatening his birthplace. Spokesman Josh Earnest said administration officials will remain in close contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other agencies that are that are preparing to help with response and recovery efforts as the storms near.

7:20 a.m. HST

The U.S. Geological Survey reports a magnitude 4.5 earthquake has rattled Hawaii’s Big Island. There were no immediate reports of damage.

(Copyright 2014, KRON 4 and the Associated Press, All rights reserved.)

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