High wind blows by islands


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

Oahu and Kauai escaped any serious damage overnight as potentially dangerous wind and rain stayed farther north of the islands than predicted, according to the National Weather Service.

;[Preview] High Winds Expected Beaches Closed

Wind gusts as high as 60 miles per hour are expected to blow across the western half of the state.

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By mid-morning, weather officials were predicting the cold front moving across Oahu today would have diminished winds.

Robert Ballard, National Weather Service forecaster, said “;although there will be some gusty winds, the overall threat has really decreased.”;

He said the stronger winds in a massive storm stayed farther north of the islands.

Gusts up to 60 mph were predicted. Schofield Barracks reported gusts of 49 mph at 3 this morning and another 49 mph gust was reported at Kahului, Maui at 6 a.m.

Ballard said “;a narrow line of moderate showers”; with gusty winds of 40 to 50 mph from the west and southwest were expected to across Oahu from west to east today.

The high wind warning was reduced to a wind advisory by 10:30 a.m. today.

Winds were predicted to switch to northwest tonight and tradewinds are forecast to return on Sunday.

Officials closed state and city offices and public schools today in anticipation of destructive gusts of wind and possible flooding from Kauai to Maui; many private schools closed as well.

Except for on the Big Island, all public schools and University of Hawaii campuses are closed. Students got a four-day weekend with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday. Athletic events at UH-Manoa were to continue as scheduled.

Employees of the state, City and County of Honolulu and Maui County were released from work because of the potentially dangerous weather.

While state employees on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai and Lanai will receive a day off with pay, employees on the Big Island were told to show up as usual.

Also exempted from the day off for state and Honolulu workers were Civil Defense coordinators, disaster response workers and essential workers.

Russell Pang said the cost to pay state employees for one day is $8 million, including Big Island workers who are still working today.

Bill Brennan, city spokesman, did not know the city's cost for employing workers for one day.

Kauai County, despite facing the threat of strong winds first, kept its county offices open.

But like most state employees, legislators also took the day off as their offices at the Capitol were shuttered due to weather.

State courts also were closed.

The superintendent of Hawaii Catholic Schools recommended schools on Kauai, Maui and Oahu close. Each principal makes that determination.

“;Our students come from all over, so driving our kids to get to school can be quite dangerous,”; said Carmen Himenes, superintendent of Hawaii Catholic Schools. “;I decided to make a recommendation.”;

State Civil Defense urged residents yesterday to prepare for possible wind damage, flooding and the loss of electricity.

The Civil Defense also warned residents in flood-prone areas to prepare to evacuate, since the ground could already be saturated from the early December storm.

Firefighters did not respond to any weather-related calls overnight, but were prepared this morning for more wind problems, said Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig.

Yesterday the Honolulu Fire Department responded to 12 wind-related emergencies, all of which were in the Windward side of the island. There were no injuries.

» Two of the calls were for arcing wires, one in the Olomana area and another in Waimanalo.

» Another response was to a report of a blown-over tree in Maunawili.

» There were seven reports of blown-over roofs in Kaneohe. There were also calls of blown-over roofs in Kahaluu and Enchanted Lake.

Fire personnel secured or removed the roofing materials, installed water barriers and secured debris at the sites.

One resident lost the back half of her roof in the windy weather.

“;It's very windy here,”; said Patsy Kaneshiro. “;It's been windy all day.”;

Firefighters nailed down sheets on her roof shortly after 5 p.m., and Kaneshiro said she and her family would stay there because they have nowhere else to go.

The city Department of Emergency Management said there were no other major incidents or trouble spots around the island.

“;It was very quiet last night,”; said spokesman John Cummings, adding that the National Weather Service expected the worst gusts this morning. “;So far it looks pretty good.”;

The city closed beaches on the North and Leeward shores yesterday because of the windy weather and opened four shelters in Waianae, Waialua, Waimanalo and Kaneohe, to help homeless living at the beaches and people affected by the storm.

Cummings said this morning that there were 114 people in the four shelters and that they would remain open until about 6 p.m.

Cummings said all county parks, including Hanauma Bay, which rarely closed, were closed, and all veterans affairs clinics were closed. He added that many physician offices are also closed, but that the hospitals are open.

About 10,600 Hawaiian Electric Co. customers lost power by 8 p.m., said HECO spokesman Darren Pai.

The outages were in Wilhelmina Rise and on the Windward side during the day.

After 6 p.m. about 700 customers temporarily lost power in Kailua. At 7:20 p.m., 2,300 customers in Aina Haina were left in the dark, but they had power back by 8:05 p.m.

About 10 p.m., 400 customers were still without power in Kaneohe and Waimanalo.

Power went out in Enchanted Lake about 1 a.m. and was back on by about 5 a.m.

TheBoat canceled its schedule for today and yesterday afternoon. The Hawaii Superferry canceled today's voyages because of high seas.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources canceled camping permits for the Peacock Flats in Mokuleia and hiking permits for Kuaokala Forest Reserve. Permits will be honored starting tomorrow. It also closed the Kula Forest Reserve and Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area today because high winds could cause trees to fall.

The Division of State Parks closed the Yokohama Bay section of Kaena Point State Park.


Star-Bulletin reporters Leila Fujimori, Rob Shikina and Gregg K. Kakesako and Gene Park contributed to this report.