Tropical storm batters Hawaii, knocking out power and canceling flights

The tropical storm known as Iselle made landfall in Hawaii early Friday morning, bringing buckets of rain to the Big Island as another storm loomed in the days ahead.

Iselle first came ashore on the Big Island at about 2:30 a.m. local time, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu. The entire state remains under a tropical storm warning, as storm conditions are expected to endure into the weekend. (Our friends over at the Capital Weather Gang have much more about the storm itself, including details about the forecast and what people can expect to see in the near future.)

All state offices were closed on Friday, while all major roadwork was canceled through the weekend. Schools in the state were also closed, with many of these facilities doubling as emergency shelters. Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) signed an emergency proclamation on Wednesday, before the two storms were set to arrive, activating a disaster relief fund in the state.

As the storm hit, the heavy rain and wind began to have an impact, taking down trees and causing power outages. More than 21,000 people were without power across the islands on Friday morning, as crews in helicopters flew overhead to try and survey the damage, Hawaii Electric Light Company reported shortly after 7 a.m. local time (after 1 p.m. on the East Coast). Residents were urged not to surf, despite the sight of increasing swells.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation said before the storm arrived that the state’s airports — including Honolulu International Airport, the largest airport in Hawaii — remained open, it warned travelers to check with their airlines before heading out. Many flights have been canceled, but some were continuing. Flights from United, Delta and Hawaiian Air had all left Los Angeles heading for Honolulu on Friday morning, according to the flight-tracking site FlightAware.

US Airways, which merged with American, announced that due to the weather, flights to Honolulu and other Hawaiian cities on Thursday and Friday could be re-booked without any change fees. Island Air announced that all service was canceled on Friday, with the expectation that normal flights would resume on Saturday. The airline also said it was waiving fees for flights altered and re-booked through Tuesday.

The storms were also likely to affect the Democratic primary races set for Saturday in the state, where voters are expected to make selections in the contested gubernatorial and Senate races.

Once Iselle has moved on, attention turns to the looming Hurricane Julio. The last time a hurricane made landfall on a Hawaiian island was 1992, when Iniki arrived as a Category 4 storm.

As of right now, though, Hurricane Julio looks like it will pass by north of the Hawaiian islands, according to the National Weather Service’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center. But as Angela Fritz notes at the Capital Weather Gang, it is still possible the forecast could change in the coming days, particularly with Julio’s current track bringing it relatively close to the islands. Here’s the current forecast:


The five-day track for Hurricane Julio as of Friday, Aug. 8. (CPHC)
Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He runs Post Nation, a destination for breaking news and developing stories from around the country.
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Mark Berman · August 8