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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

Storm might be weakening

By Mike Gordon
and Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writers

The potential for heavy rain was still in the forecast for tonight but the National Weather Service says the second storm of winter should yield to clear skies and calmer winds by tomorrow.

Temperatures this morning hovered around freezing on the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, where a blizzard yesterday draped them with snow.

"We did not get a lot of snowfall last night, but there are some drifts in the one-foot range," Ron Koehler, general manager of support services for the Mauna Kea observatories, said today. "We need to get snow-removal equipment up there. The road remains closed."

The storm also knocked trees onto power lines and drove storm surf onto coastal properties across the state yesterday.

High surf warnings for eastern shores were posted yesterday and remained in place through today for all islands, the weather service said.

Strong winds were expected to last through today, but would not be as powerful as those that raked the state yesterday, when gusts reached 100 mph on the summit of Haleakala and 20 to 40 mph at lower elevations statewide.

The wind knocked trees onto roads and power lines, cutting electricity to the area around Pu'uwa'awa'a Ranch on the Big Island and much of Kane'ohe on O'ahu yesterday morning. There were power failures on Kaua'i and Maui as well.

"We're getting smashed," said Stephen Bianco, Maui Electric Co. dispatch supervisor. "We're being impacted heavily in the Upcountry area by heavy winds, and it will probably go on into the night with scattered outages."

The blustery winds kept Hawaiian Electric Co. crews busy throughout the day as numerous failures were reported across O'ahu.

The biggest failure was reported in Kane'ohe from Castle High School to the 'Aikahi Gardens subdivision. About 2,050 customers lost their power for about a half-hour starting at about 8:09 a.m., said HECO spokesman Fred Kobashikawa.

Other power failures reported yesterday included: the Pauoa-Nu'uanu area (1,700 customers), from 6:55 to 7:52 p.m.; in Waiahole (300 customers), from 10:41 a.m. to 4:08 p.m.; on Roundtop (100 customers), 11:28 a.m. to 3:20; in lower Manoa (306 customers), from 11:58 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.; at Mayor Wright Housing (200 customers), from 10:53 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.; and in Wahiawa (300 customers) from 2:24-3:19 p.m.

Rough surf of 10 to 15 feet pounded eastern shores, pushing sand onto coastal roads on several islands, and causing minor flooding for coastal properties at Kapoho on Hawai'i. Flooding and mud associated with rain hampered travel on some roads, and on Haleakala, high winds were blowing rocks onto the highway.

Big Island civil defense administrator Bill Davis said that island was faring reasonably well.

"We did have heavy rains but they didn't last very long," Davis said. "We had some minor street flooding, but no damage to any of our roads or private property that we're aware of at this time."

A few families in the Kapoho area were evacuated because they feared the high surf, he said.

Roy Matsuda, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said areas across the state got rainfall in the range of one to three inches in 24 hours.

Surfers were taking advantage of the waves in some areas, but lifeguards were trying to keep people away from the water.

"We're trying to keep people from getting into the water," said Jim Howe, chief of operations for Honolulu lifeguards.

The week's rough weather was caused by a large low-pressure system that traveled east to west, with its center south of the Islands. As it moves, the heavy winds and rains are being dragged along behind it. The center had moved to the south-southwest of Kaua'i yesterday, and the system was weakening as it moved away from the Islands.

Advertiser staff writers James Gonser and Curtis Lum and Neighbor Island editor Christie Wilson contributed to this report.