The light of fireworks bathed Tokyo visitor Toshikazu Watanabe in an otherworldly glow last night on Kaia Street in Pauoa Valley.

Hawaii welcomes
a wet and wild 2004

Rain fails to dampen
holiday mood

When Los Angeles resident Mateo Herreros imagined spending New Year's Eve in Hawaii, he envisioned sun and surf and women in sarongs.

Instead, during the past week, he's been rained on, pounded by the surf at Sandy Beach and assailed by flu symptoms during a party last night in Waikiki.

"Mother Nature has not been kind to me out here," said Herreros, 30. "I expected a gentler hand from her.

"But we're drinking beers ... partying with local people. ... It's still good."

Unfortunately, meteorologists said, Mother Nature's low-pressure system to the north of the islands will continue to dump rain on tourists and locals across the state for the next several days.

"It's sprinkling all over," said National Weather Service forecaster Hans Rosendal. "It's fairly big drops but not too many of them ... enough to keep the (fireworks) powder damp."

The rain was a welcome sight for firefighters, especially since there was a large increase in sales of $25 firecracker permits for all islands in 2003.

Despite the increase, Honolulu Fire Department officials said the end of the year for them started out quieter than usual.

"It usually starts pretty early ... but there wasn't much activity going on," said HFD spokesman Capt. Kenison Tejada. "Out of the 23 fire calls up until 8:30 p.m., only two was fireworks-related. ... We had 53 medical calls, but none of those were fireworks-related."

"We didn't want it to rain on anyone ... but we're glad the conditions were in our favor. Most of the island was pretty wet."

In Manoa, Kahaloa Street resident Bobbie Ogata said the rain meant some of her partygoers would be arriving late, but that's about it.

"We've been doing this for six years now, and even though people might come late, they'll stay late, too," she said. "And if I have to, I'll take their keys at the end of the night."

On the menu at the Ogatas' were prime rib, garlic shrimp, kalua pig and karaoke.

"I started doing this because I have three boys, and I wanted to make sure they were home safe instead of driving and getting into an accident out there," Ogata said. "It started out small, then everybody hears about it and it continues to grow."

Some people decided to brave the "big drops" and hit the road for a night on the town. By 7 p.m., Restaurant Row's outdoor Row Bar had about 75 customers.

"It started out slower than usual because of the rain," said Row Bar manager Tony Tacon. "But New Year's is like Halloween. ... They'll come out regardless."

Tom Ching held up an $18 package of 5,000-count firecrackers yesterday at Grocery Outlet on Dillingham Boulevard. Customers in back of him were buying fireworks that did not require any permits.

Firecracker permit
sales go sky high

All islands reported significant increases in sales of $25 firecracker permits in 2003.

On Oahu, where most stores ran out of firecrackers, sales of the permits dropped "significantly" yesterday from Tuesday.

Dennis Taga, satellite city hall division chief, said about 8,770 permits were sold compared with a total of about 6,100 in 2002.

On Tuesday the city recorded 1,518 permit sales, but only 436 yesterday.

"Some people are saying there are still firecrackers. I don't know where they are getting them from," Taga said.

Maui County reported more than 600 permits sold by the close of business yesterday compared with 424 a year earlier.

Kauai Fire Chief Dennis Furushima said the Fire Department sold about 454 permits compared with 404 in 2002.

He said a couple of stores had sold out of firecrackers, but there were still supplies at other locations.

The Big Island, which was also running out of firecrackers, sold more than 2,500 permits as of Tuesday compared with 1,600 in 2002. The Fire Department did not return a call about permit sales.

Star-Bulletin staff


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