Tornado hits Kapolei, injures golf course worker


POSTED: Thursday, February 12, 2009

A tornado threw a Kapolei Golf Course employee into a window today, sending him to the hospital, a golf course official said.

The injured man, who was in his 30s, was taken to the hospital in stable condition, said Bryan Cheplic, Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokesman said.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service said a low pressure system centered north of Kauai is creating an unstable atmosphere over the islands that is producing heavy showers and thunderstorms. 

The weather service issued a flood advisory for Oahu until 8 p.m. At about 5 p.m., heavy rain was falling near Aiea and slowly moving southeast.
The weather service also issued a high wind watch from Friday to Sunday afternoon. The high pressure building to the north of the islands will create strong trade winds Friday evening, the weather service said. A high wind watch means possible sustained winds of 40 mph or gusts of more than 58 mph.

The golf course employee, who is 6-feet 1-inch t and 250 pounds, was outdoors telling customers to get inside when the tornado lifted him off his feet and thrust him about four feet backward into a window, said Ken Terao, golf operations manager and head pro. The window did not break.
After the accident, the employee fainted and was taken to the hospital, Terao said. He was treated and released, Terao said.
The tornado appeared at about 1 p.m. on the sold out course where about 140 people playing.
Terao saw the tornado form as he was watching another funnel cloud. The dust started swirling on the ground about 70 feet away, then rose hundreds of feet into the sky, he said.
“As soon as it formed, it started moving,” he said. “It moved right towards us.”
In about five to 10 minutes, the tornado ripped a narrow path of destruction through the golf cart staging area and across six holes, scattering golfers caught on the course, before it disappeared as fast as it formed.
Course officials sent out a warning to golfers through a global positioning system on the golf carts to get off the course.
The twister picked up a golf cart and threw it 60 feet into a tractor, tore out golf cart windows, blew away golf cart keys, damaged the proshop roof, and ripped up several trees. Several times, the twister went into the lake and turned into a water spout, shooting water into the air, Terao said.
Management was still trying to assess the damage today.
“Damage to the course was minimal, it had a very narrow path of destruction,” Terao said.
Torrential rains followed right after the tornado.
“Then the rain disappeared, the clouds disappeared, the sun came out. I opened the course about half-an-hour later,” Terao said.
At about the same time as the golf course tornado, Kapolei resident Aaron Nahinu was driving toward Waianae on the H-1 freeway near the Makakilo off-ramp when he saw a funnel cloud touch down.
“I was amazed by it,” he said. “It kind of just jumped over the freeway. It went right over our car.”
The tornado rose over both sides of the freeway and didn’t hit anything.
As Nahinu pulled into his driveway, he saw the tornado heading toward his house less then a mile away.
“It was headed right at us so I pulled out my cell phone and starting snapping pictures,” he said.
He said it wasn’t raining at the time.
The tornado was picking up construction debris, including black paper used for trapping dust at building sites.
A flash-flood warning for Oahu today lasted nearly an hour starting at about 1:30 p.m. thanks to an area of heavy, stationary rain near Waikele, forecasters said.
A trough, or low pressure area, to the northwest of Oahu was creating unstable conditions and killing the tradewinds, said forecaster Pete Donaldson.
Unstable conditions and light winds allowed clouds to build high into the atmosphere and create the conditions for a funnel cloud, he said.
Tomorrow could bring a chance of heavy showers and strong winds. Conditions for funnel clouds are possible but should diminish throughout the day.
“It’s possible anytime it gets unstable and you have the same kind of conditions that produce thunderstorms and heavy showers,” said Donaldson.
The weather service also warned of about 2 inches of snow for the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa until 6 p.m. today.