Tornado tears through golf course


POSTED: Thursday, February 12, 2009

A twister touched down on Kapolei Golf Course yesterday, blowing an employee into a glass door and hospitalizing him, officials said.





Hawaii Twisters

        » Since 1950, the year the National Weather Service began collecting tornado data, no one has ever died in a tornado in Hawaii.

» In that period, 37 tornados have caused $3.9 million in damage and injured five people.


» In January 1971 a 100-yard-wide twister hurt four people and caused $2.5 million in damage on the Big Island.


» Before that, one person was hurt by a tornado on Oahu on March 27, 1963.


Source: National Weather Service


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

The tornado surprised motorists on the H-1 freeway and scattered golfers at the sold-out course as it cut across six holes. It was the first tornado on Oahu since one in Aiea in December 2005, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado touched down yesterday at about 1 p.m., caused by the unstable atmosphere across the island chain, weather service officials said.

The air mass was still unstable early today with some thunderstorms occurring across the state and a chance of more heavy showers this afternoon, said weather forecaster Henry Lau.

He said the “;significant”; weather was expected to end tonight. “;However, we're looking for trades to get stronger as the evening progresses.”;

A high-pressure system building in the northwest is increasing the trades and pushing away the low that is causing the unstable atmosphere, Lau said.

The weather service issued a high-wind watch for all islands starting tomorrow night and continuing to Sunday afternoon, with possible sustained winds of 40 mph and gusts of 58 mph.

At Kapolei the tornado came with little warning.


;[Preview] Tornado Passes Through Kapolei

The National Weather service considered it a “weak tornado,” causing slight property damage and injuring one person.

Watch ]


  The golf course employee, who is 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, was trying to get customers indoors when the tornado tossed him about four feet backward into a glass door, said Ken Terao, golf operations manager and golf pro of the course. The employee hit his head on the door, which did not break.

Afterward he fainted and was taken to the hospital but was later released, Terao said.

At about 1 p.m. Terao was watching a distant funnel cloud. He saw a dust cloud swirling on the ground about 70 feet away, then reach hundreds of feet into the sky.

The tornado came right at him, and he ducked into a building.

It blew across the golf cart staging area, tossed a golf cart 60 feet into a tractor, and tore out cart windows and seats. It ripped off fragments of the Pro Shop roof and continued about a mile across six holes, pulling up trees in its narrow path.

Course officials sent customers a warning through a global positioning system on the carts. Terao ran back out after the twister passed.

“;As soon as the wind died, I started chasing it because I needed to make sure the customers were off the course,”; he said. “;(There was) no time to be scared.”;

About 140 people were on the course at the time.



The twister was erratic, sometimes moving at speeds of 25 to 30 mph, then hovering, Terao said. It lasted about five to 10 minutes.

“;It went into the lake and turned into a water spout and was shooting water into the air,”; Terao said. “;Then it just disappeared as fast as it came.”;

At the same time, Aaron Nahinu was driving westbound on H-1 near the Makakilo offramp when he saw a funnel cloud touch down on the mauka side.

“;At first it was big but it wasn't strong-looking,”; he said. “;It kind of just jumped over the freeway. It went right over our car.”;

“;I was amazed by it,”; he said. Torrential rain followed the tornado.