Monday, December 31, 2001

Breezes prove both
curse and blessing
for fireworks

High winds clear out smoke
better but tend to spread brush fires

By Leila Fujimori

Weather, as always, will be a major player in New Year's Eve safety.

Predicted moderate winds and clear skies may bode well for those with respiratory problems tonight.

Although a wind advisory was in effect yesterday due to 20 to 25 mph winds with gusts to 40 mph, the National Weather Service forecasts northwesterly winds of 10 to 15 mph by this afternoon on Oahu.

"The winds are strong enough to blow the (firecracker) smoke away," Tim Craig, lead forecaster for the National Weather Service, said yesterday.

"It's good for people who have respiratory problems. That's one of our concerns," Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Kenison Tejada said. "If there's a breeze, at least that'll take the smoke out to sea."

New Year's Eve public displays

Public displays of aerial fireworks will be held at midnight at:
>> Aloha Tower Marketplace
>> Offshore of the Halekulani Hotel
>> Marriott Ihilani Resort Hotel & Spa at Ko Olina
>> Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hawaii

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said stronger winds would be better.

"If the winds were lighter we could expect a significant problem in any of the valleys," Anderson said. "It could be a problem even with fewer fireworks used this year."

Anderson said, "Wind seems to be a most critical factor. Strong winds dissipate smoke even with a lot of fireworks burned."

The Department of Health is monitoring air quality for smoke and fine particles suspended in the air at six sites, four on Oahu and two on Maui, from noon today to noon tomorrow. Results should be available Thursday.

Last New Year's Eve, particles measured at Pearl City exceeded air quality standards for the same 24-hour period.

If sulfur is associated with the smoke, it can be "particularly irritating" to people who already suffer from emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory problems, Anderson said.

Rather than shooting off their own fireworks, the public should be encouraged to attend professional fireworks displays, Anderson said, adding that the shows are probably minor contributors to air pollution since the fireworks burn at high altitudes and are dispersed by the time they get down to the ground.

On the chances of fires resulting from fireworks, Tejada said: "Brush fire-wise, we're pretty green on most of the island, but then again, you never know.

"It'll slow it down," Tejada said. "It won't be as quick as if the brush was really dry."

Tejada said the Fire Department would be worried if moderate or high winds prevailed.

"We're just hoping for a slower New Year's, fireworks-wise."

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