Friday, December 14, 2001

Partial eclipse
heralds clearing skies

A Maui traffic death is attributed
to a storm that cut off electricity
and uprooted trees

By Gary T. Kubota

A winter storm that brought high winds, waves and isolated heavy rain to the state was clearing today and typical tradewind weather was expected to return tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service.

However, winds may begin increasing again Sunday and Monday because of a strengthening high pressure system to the north.

The clouds cleared enough this morning to give sky watchers a view of a partial solar eclipse.

"There was a crescent sun in the sky," said Bishop Museum Planetarium Manager Mike Shanahan. About 300 people, including a number of school children, braved the cloudy and windy weather on the museum's great lawn hoping for a glimpse of the eclipse. The museum opened an hour early at 8 a.m. for eclipse-related programs.

"They (the school children) loved it," Shanahan said. "We had a number of programs for them but seeing this event live is what they'll remember."

High winds created problems across the state yesterday.

Gusts up to 60 mph uprooted trees, broke power poles and played a part in the death of a visiting motorcyclist.

The fatal accident on Maui was the worst weather-related incident reported yesterday.

Vincent Salerno, 55, of Santa Rosa, Calif., was heading towards Wailuku on Honoapiilani Highway when his motorcycle hit a guardrail near Maalaea at 2:45 p.m.

Yesterday, high winds caused about a dozen power failures on Maui, including an hourlong outage to about 1,000 homes and businesses from Pukalani to Hana.

Winds estimated at 70 to 80 mph blew down 10 utility poles at Puukolii at about 8 last night, shutting down electricity to most parts of West Maui for an hour and a half.

Six utility poles were down south of Lahaina, where electricity in Olowalu and Puamana was expected to be restored by this afternoon.

The back road between Hana and Ulupalakua was expected to be closed through this afternoon but the road on East Molokai was opened to traffic for today, according to Civil Defense on Maui.

Flooding also stopped traffic for close to two hours on the back road from Lahaina to Wailuku.

Oahu was free of electrical problems early today but winds yesterday knocked out power to more than 5,800 customers in Waiahole, Wahiawa, Lower Manoa, Pacific Heights, Round Top Drive and Mayor Wright Housing in Kalihi. Power was restored to all areas by last night, Hawaiian Electric officials said.

Quick passage of the weather system over the Big Island kept problems there to a minimum, Civil Defense Director Bill Davis said.

On Mauna Kea, freezing temperatures and rain left doubt about whether Mauna Kea Support Services would be able to open the road to the summit to the general public today.

High winds also knocked out power to some residents of Kauai.

Kauai Electric spokesman Ed Nakaya said damage was minimized by the relatively new condition of Kauai Electric's lines, all of which were replaced after Hurricane Iniki nine years ago.

All of the island's tour helicopters were grounded, while East Shore beaches were closed for the fourth straight day because of high surf.

The big rainfall producers on Oahu were Nuuanu with 1.45 inches; Mililani .98 of an inch, Wheeler Army Airfield 1.34 inches and Waiawa, 1.62 inches.

Star-Bulletin reporters Rod Antone, Helen Altonn, Anthony Sommer and Rod Thompson contributed to this story.

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