Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Hawaii Electric Company crews repaired downed lines this morning when strong winds toppled a tree blocking Roundtop Drive near Makiki Street.

New storm
on the way

Oahu phone and power companies
brace for high winds and rain,
with snow expected as early as
tomorrow on Big Island mountains

By Helen Altonn

Winter is coming to Hawaii with strong winds and isolated heavy rains spreading across the state and snow predicted for Big Island summits in the next few days.

A weather system is drifting toward the Big Island from the east with storm conditions, said forecaster Roy Matsuda.

The system was expected to hit the Big Island today and work its way toward Oahu.

"Today, it will be blustery, more tradewind variety, with a lot of sunshine," he said. However, isolated heavy showers are predicted tomorrow and Friday as the system moves across the state toward Kauai, he said.

"Today will be fairly nice, but it is getting windier and windier as time passes."

HECO began getting calls at 8 a.m. today about a power outage after a tree fell across an electric line in the 2300 block of Round Top Drive, said spokesman Fred Kobashikawa.

He said up to about 100 residents lost service in the area from Makiki to lower Round Top. Crews were on the scene this morning working with tree trimmers to cut away the branches.

Matsuda said today's winds of 20 to 30 mph will increase to about 40 mph tomorrow and it will be a little cooler.

"We could get high temperatures that don't touch 80, somewhere in the 70s, and nighttime temperatures will feel chilly because of wind and rain."

A winter storm watch was issued for Big Island mountains with below-freezing temperatures and snow expected tomorrow.

Still fresh in residents' minds is the fierce Nov. 28 storm that knocked out power and telephone lines and blew off roofs. Many residents were without power or telephone service for days.

Kobashikawa said, "We're aware of the upcoming weather conditions and operation staff and field crews are on alert."

He said residents who have problems with electrical service should call the 24-hour trouble line: 548-7961 for HECO; 969-6666 for HELCO on the Big Island, and 871-777 for MECO on Maui, also covering Lanai and Molokai.

Verizon Hawaii spokesperson Ann Nishida said the company is continuing to pressurize its cables with air to prevent extensive water damage and working with HECO and other companies to get rid of low-hanging branches that might damage lines.

She said residents can help by keeping shrubbery and trees trimmed if branches touch poles or whip into overhead lines.

When they rub against lines and poles, the sheaths covering cables get cracked and water seeps in, she said.

Residential and small business customers who have phone service problems should call 611. Mid-to-large-sized business should call 643-6633, toll-free for all islands.

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