Tornado not likely
cause of wreckage
A brief tornado generated by a fierce thunderstorm touched down in Waimea, Kauai, on Jan. 8, but it most likely was not what caused extensive damage at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said a National Weather Service official.
Based on pictures of the damage, radar images and talks with people at the garden, it probably was hit by a down-burst generated by the strong winter storm system, said Nezette Rydell, warning coordination meteorologist in the Honolulu Forecast Office.
"Those can be ferocious," she said. "They can be devastating. Often, they do more damage over a wider area than a tornado."
She said an NWS warning coordination meteorologist from Minneapolis, Minn., was vacationing on Kauai and helped to look into the storm.
"This was a very strong storm system, very vigorous, very strong to be this far south in latitude," she said. Such storms are more typical in the mid-latitudes, the Central Plains and the eastern United States.
She said the most ferocious storms in the system occurred over waters between Kauai and Oahu. "We were fortunate they didn't occur over land areas."
One storm about 25 miles north of Oahu "was just spectacular -- wow!" she said. "Had that been over land area, there would have been considerable damage."