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Tuesday, September 2, 2003



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KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM
In the flooded street fronting the ocean, Kapoho resident Mitzi Bettencourt and friend Sheila Weber, of California, greeted the morning yesterday with coffee and gratitude that Hurricane Jimena left little more than extra wind and wetness.



Storm rain
brings relief to
parched Big Island

The Volcano area gets
about 8 inches from a close
brush with Hurricane Jimena


HILO >> Hurricane Jimena, now a tropical storm heading away from the islands, could have brought misery but instead delivered good fortune in the form of rain to some drought-stricken areas of the Big Island.

"We got off easy," said vacation rental owner Bonny Goodell in Volcano, who described conditions there yesterday as "rainy and blowy, real blowy."

Jimena passed just south of the Big Island early yesterday morning, bringing high surf, strong winds and heavy rain but sparing the island any major damage. Numerous minor power failures were reported throughout the islands.

By 11 a.m. a tropical storm warning for the island was dropped, and a downgraded Jimena, with sustained winds of about 55 mph, was headed west-southwest, away from the state.

Still, the storm raised surf heights for east and southeast shores throughout the islands and dumped plenty of rain on parts of the Big Island.

art
KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Around 7:30 a.m., Kapoho Beach Road at Pohoiki, at left, was still occasionally awash from ocean surges. In the far truck, a county worker manned the east barricade, but some drivers made a break for it between surges on the unmanned Isaac Hale Park side.



Glenwood, not far from Volcano, got the most rain, 8.43 inches in 24 hours, said Bob Farrell at the National Weather Service.

A few miles to the south of Glenwood lie parched ranches. "The ranches need it badly," Goodell said.

Kapapala Ranch owner Gordon Cran agreed.

"We've been in a drought for six years," he said. In 28 hours the ranch got 1.85 inches of rain, Cran said. That is enough to green up the ranch's dried grass and to keep it green for about five weeks, he said.

The rains will also help coffee growers and vegetable farmers near Pahala, said coffee grower Brenda Domondon.

"We've been drying up, up here," she said.

The strongest winds from Jimena on land were recorded at South Point, with gusts of 55 mph, said Farrell.

Winds of "similar intensity" also whipped through the central valley of Maui, he said.

But past South Point heading toward Kona, any benefit from Jimena nearly evaporated. In the perpetually dry Hawaiian Ranchos subdivision, Sonja Oberosler recorded just 0.1 inch of rain, she said.

"The flowers all smiled this morning," she said. But puddles quickly dried, and she still has to order $150 worth of water every six weeks.

Carol Goodridge, of Kau Water Delivery, brings it. Her rain gauge in Hawaiian Ranchos showed only 0.2 inches of rain. Despite yesterday being a holiday, she delivered nine loads of water to homes dependent on rainwater catchment.

Still, Civil Defense officials counted their blessings.

"I think we were really lucky," said Hawaii County Civil Defense head Troy Kindred. "I think the effects were really light in respect to what could have happened."

Technology allowed the National Weather Service to predict the track of the story with precision, Kindred said.

Technology also scared some people, showing the storm as big red blotches headed toward the Big Island.

"We had a lot of jumpy people out there, a lot of scared people," said former Civil Defense employee Wendell Hatada. He and his boss, Mayor Harry Kim, the former county Civil Defense chief, returned to their former offices to help Kindred, who just took over the job in June.

A one-degree difference in the storm track could have meant a much worse outcome, Kindred said.

"We didn't know which way the track would go," added Corky Yoshina, one of three state Civil Defense officials sent to the Big Island as a precaution.

Two evacuation centers were designated in each of the island's nine districts, Kindred said. None needed to be opened.

Although no homes were evacuated, about 200 people camping in the Pohoiki area of Puna were asked to leave Saturday due to potential danger from high seas. A county helicopter flew the coastline to check for stragglers.

The South Point road was also closed.

Orange grower Morton Bassan, whose farm lies along the road, received only 0.7 inches of rain.

The rain at least reduced the hazard of wildfires. A week ago the risk nearly everywhere on the island was listed at "extreme," Kindred said. Yesterday that danger had dropped to "low."

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Big Isle endures
scattered outages


HILO >> Although damage on the Big Island from a close call with Hurricane Jimena was minimal, the Hawaii Electric Light Co. reported several power failures due to the storm.

>> 8:41 p.m. Sunday: Trees falling on power lines cut electricity to "several customers" in Hawaiian Beaches, Puna. Power was restored at 3:29 a.m. yesterday.

>> 9:14 p.m. Sunday: Wind damaged a power line at Puuhue Ranch, North Kohala. Power was restored at 10:05 a.m.

>> 12:10 a.m. yesterday: A second power failure in Hawaiian Beaches due to a damaged insulator. Power was restored at 1:22 a.m.

>> 12:47 a.m. yesterday: A power line serving observatories on Mauna Kea and Pohakuloa Training Area shut off for five seconds for unknown reasons, then came on again.

>> 2:45 a.m. yesterday: Power to 1,300 customers in Volcano and Glenwood was cut by a falling tree. Power was restored at 3:47 a.m.

>> 4:39 a.m. yesterday: Power to 270 customers in the Glenwood was cut by a falling tree. Power was restored at 5:45 a.m.

>> Various times and places yesterday: 375 customers affected in "small pockets."

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Jimena blows harmlessly
off to the west


With its strength dissipated, Tropical Storm Jimena was headed on a southwesterly path away from Hawaii late yesterday.

At 10 p.m., the National Weather Service reported the storm was 340 miles southwest of South Point on the Big island and weakening as it continued to move west-southwest.

The former hurricane's winds had slowed to about 50 mph, with gusts reaching 60 mph.

A flash flood watch for the Big Island was canceled at 9:30 last night.

The weather service said radar and satellite data showed that heavy rains associated with the storm are no longer likely to occur.

However, some rain was still possible overnight.

A small-craft advisory was also in effect for all Hawaiian waters last night.

Swells produced by Jimena led to an overnight high-surf advisory for the east- and southeast-facing shores of all islands.

Waves of 8 to 12 feet were expected overnight on the east and southeast shores of the Big Island and Maui.

Surf along the east and southeast shores of Oahu and the remaining islands was expected to be from 6 to 8 feet overnight.

The surf should diminish today, according to the weather service.

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