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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

Winter storm buffets Islands

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Science Writer

Wind and rain didn't stop recent Kamehameha Schools graduates Ke'ala Hook, left, and 'Auli'i George, both 18, from reacquainting themselves with the Hawai'i they left behind while attending Mainland colleges this semester. "I miss the sound of the ocean," said George as she and Hook snapped pictures at Sandy Beach.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

A passing winter storm draped the Big Island's peaks in snow, knocked trees onto powerlines and drove storm surf onto coastal properties across the state yesterday.

The foul weather was expected to be a little lighter today and to dissipate tomorrow, leading to fair weather Sunday, said National Weather Service meteorologist Roy Matsuda.

Wind advisories and high surf warnings for eastern shores were in place through the day yesterday for all islands, and flood watches were set for Maui and Hawai'i. Winds blew in the 25 to 30 mile an hour range across the state, with gusts to 50 at lower elevations. They were much stronger through passes like O'ahu's Pali area and mountain tops of Maui and Hawai'i.

Electricity, traffic disrupted

The wind knocked trees onto roads and powerlines, 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 faiures reported yesterday include: 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.

High surf hits east side

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. 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," Davis said.

Matsuda said areas across the state got rainfall in the range of one to three inches in 24 hours.

Mauna Kea gets deep snow

Snow whipped onto the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Ron Koehler, general manager of Mauna Kea Observatories Support Services, said the road to the summit was closed by snow and ice.

"There's snow on the ground from about 10,000 feet to the summit, on the order of about a foot, foot-and-a-half. There are some deep drifts in some areas up to six feet or so," Koehler said.

While technicians were working at some observatories on the mountain, no observing was being done, both because of the heavy cloud cover and because ice has frozen most of the domes shut.

Winds atop both Mauna Kea and Haleakala on Maui registered gusts to 90 miles an hour.

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

"We are on full prevent mode today. 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, Curtis Lum and Christie Wilson contributed to this report.