Tuesday, January 26, 1999

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
Retired Hawaii County leader Helene Hale grabs a branch
severed from a tree at her Hilo home by tornado-like winds
Sunday. Part of her roof was also torn off by the winds.

Freak Hilo wind
shears off roofs,
uproots a tree

Its force and direction suggest
a waterspout, a county
official says

By Rod Thompson


HILO -- Former Hawaii County government head Helene Hale was away from home when a freak wind tore the roof off her living room Sunday.

"My neighbor called me and said, 'You'd better come home. Your roof's off,' " Hale said.

The 1963-65 head of the county Board of Supervisors, equivalent to mayor, found she'd barely missed worse damage when a huge tree limb broke off but missed her house.

Opinions varied on what to call the wind.

The Fire Department said it was tornado-like.

County Civil Defense Director Harry Kim called it a waterspout because it came from the direction of the sea, though no one saw it over water.

Dick Mitsutani of the National Weather Service said it might have been a downburst of air.

Hale was perhaps the most descriptive. "It's a real freak kind of thing," she said.

It picked up a couple of barbecue gratings and threw them a few feet, while a row of flowers in plastic pots, three feet away, were untouched, she said.

Across the street from Hale, the wind tore the roof off a storage room at Tom Hoota's house. The pieces flew across the street, one slamming into a support post at the carport of Hale's neighbors, Renny and Felosofia Corpuz.

"I was lying down on the sofa," Felosofia said. "I felt a lifting and I heard this crash of iron roofing."

Her husband was ducking down as roofing narrowly missed two cars in the carport.

It lasted about two minutes, Renny said. "Taaaaa! Then pau."

Hale and her neighbors were about two miles from the sea.

The first report of high winds about 1 p.m. was from Keaukaha, along the shore, Kim said. Then it jumped more than 1-1/2 miles inland to a spot behind Prince Kuhio Shopping Plaza where it tore a tarpaulin off a structure.

On Kahaopea Street, it uprooted a tree. Farther inland, it hit high ground at Anela Street.

Kim said waterspouts, many of which remain at sea, are reported about once a year. Several years ago, a waterspout in Kona destroyed 400 macadamia trees, he said. In 1971, a waterspout destroyed the steel frame of a hotel under construction in Kailua-Kona, he said.

In that incident, former schoolteacher Paul Campbell, his wife, Bobbi, and their 1-year-old son were driving by the building when it disintegrated. "I turned to Bobbi and said, 'Duck now!' " he said.

A beam slammed into the car. When they looked up, uninjured, they saw a truck upside down with another car atop it, he said.

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin