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‘Kona low’ blasts Big Isle

Hawaii County Civil Defense said it will begin damage assessments today after a winter weather system known as a “Kona low” generated high winds and torrential downpours in parts of the Big Island over the weekend and Monday.

“As the National Weather Service forecasted, over the southern half of the island, there were impacts at different times,” Talmadge Magno, the Civil Defense administrator, said Monday. “(On Sunday), we had some rain and what we call ‘nuisance flooding’ — but then, the wind really came up and impacted some areas.”

“In Puna, a lot of trees were coming down, taking out utility lines. So (Hawaiian Electric), county crews and the police department were responding to those incidents (Sunday) afternoon, into the night.”

The county opened two emergency shelters Monday in Ka‘u in the Pahala and Naalehu community centers. Another center was opened in Puna at the Keaau Armory.

The summits of Maunakea and Mauna Loa saw snowfall and strong winds, with gusts of nearly 90 mph recorded atop Maunakea.

Ka‘upulehu, near the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Kona, reported wind gusts of up to 45 mph at about 9:30 p.m. Sunday, while Puuwaawaa, a popular Kona hiking area, clocked gusts of 39 mph.

Kona International Airport logged gusts of 42 mph at about 5 p.m. Sunday. And Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park recorded gusts of 36 mph at about 5:15 p.m.

Kaloko-Honokohau and Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Parks both closed on noon Sunday and remained closed on Monday — as did all county beach parks.

Keola Awong, supervisory park ranger for both West Hawaii national parks, said the closures were “due to inclement weather and public safety.”

“Both parks are experiencing flooding, high winds, high surf, and hazardous conditions,” Awong said in a Sunday statement.

According to Magno, the state also closed Kua Bay and Mahai‘ula beach parks in Kona.

Kamehameha Schools-Hawaii was closed Monday, as was Mountain View Elementary School.

Also closed Monday morning was the county’s Hilo Driver Licensing Office, but it reportedly reopened at 11 a.m.

Since Sunday, an estimated 20,000 customers experienced brief to extended power outages caused by the gusty winds and fallen trees on utility lines, according to Hawaii Electric.

Most outages occurred in the southern portion of Hawaii Island between Kurtistown and Volcano and in South Kona between Ocean View and Kealia, with a period of outages early Monday morning in the area from Captain Cook to Keahole.

As of late Monday morning, crews were working to restore power to about 7,000 customers from Kamaoa to Kealia, Orchid Isle Estates to Volcano Village, as well as numerous scattered outages in lower Puna.

Hawaiian Electric said customers in Orchid Isle Estates, Royal Hawaiian Estates and Wright Road in Volcano should prepare for an extended outage due to numerous problem areas caused by winds and vegetation.

According to Hawaiian Electric spokeswoman Kristen Okinaka, the ongoing inclement weather conditions prevented the utility’s crews from safely accessing parts of the transmission line serving this area to conduct damage assessments and make repairs.

Fallen trees and utility work closed Highway 180 between Bishop Road and Haawina Street in Honalo, at the southern end of North Kona, between about 6 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m. Monday.

Flooding closed Highway 11 between the 57- and 60-mile markers in the Kawa Flats area of Ka‘u at about 11:30 a.m. Monday.

A flash flood warning was posted at about the same time, but was downgraded to a flood advisory at 2 p.m.

Ka‘u received extremely heavy rainfall, with Kapapala Ranch getting 6.4 inches of rain and Pahala 4.6 inches in the 24-hour period ending 1 p.m. Monday.

Hilo International Airport measured 4.64 inches of rain in the same period, while Glenwood and Mountain View in upper Puna received 5.52 inches and 4.8 inches, respectively.

Should the inclement weather continue on the Big Island, “it’s not going to take a lot of additional rain to really lead to big problems,” National Weather Service meteorologist Robert Ballard said.

Mayor Mitch Roth signed a proclamation Sunday declaring a state of emergency for the county due to the weather, which will remain in effect until Dec. 31 unless earlier terminated or extended.

The county is encouraging those who incurred damages due to the weather to fill out a damage assessment survey, available online at https://bit.ly/3y24eg0.

“The more information we receive, the better we can respond to the needs of each individual household,” Roth said in a statement. “Each district experienced different weather conditions, and ensuring that we have an accurate understanding of what happened and where will help us to make the best decisions moving forward.”

Completion of the survey is not an application for assistance, Roth’s office said. Affected parties still need to file claims with their insurance companies.

For more information, call Hawaii County Civil Defense at (808) 935-0031.

Gov. David Ige issued his own emergency declaration for the entire state on Monday, with the statewide disaster emergency relief period continuing through Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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