Storm-soaked Hawaii quickly recovering
HONOLULU — Tourists in Oahu and other popular parts of Hawaii got back to their beach vacations and residents lined up to vote in primary elections Saturday, a day after Tropical Storm Iselle swept through the islands without widespread disaster. But a large, rural swath of the Big Island has spent more than 24 hours without electricity and is struggling with downed trees blocking roads.
Iselle made landfall early Friday over the lower Puna region in the isolated southeastern part of the island, bringing down heavy rain, unleashing violent winds and toppling trees. The mostly agricultural area is as big as the island of Oahu and quickly growing because of affordable property, but it's nowhere near as populated as the tourist destination home to Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor.
Umbrellas, surfboards and kayaks were back Saturday at Waikiki Beach, but surf shop worker Sparky Barros said business was still a little slow compared with a normal sunny day. It was damp and cloudy at the popular tourist spot, and rain was off and on throughout Honolulu, but people went about jogging, swimming and lying on the beach even as attention shifted toward Hurricane Julio. The storm was expected to pass roughly 160 miles northeast of the islands at its closest point early Sunday and linger near the state into Monday.
Back on the Big Island, Gene Lamkin knows that life in the sparsely populated, jungle-like Puna region, where unpaved roads of volcanic rock are not maintained by the county, means being prepared for the worst.
“Those that didn't prepare are going to be in dire straits,” he said, speaking from a cellphone he charged using a generator. “We invested in a generator years ago, but this is the first time we've had to use it at a full-time capacity. We always have our shelves stocked with food and water.”
Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira worries there could be injured people rescuers can't reach.
“We're hopeful even with the damage, we don't have casualties that are unaccounted for,” he said.
Puna, which is home to about 40,000 people, had the bulk of the 9,200 customers still without power, according to Hawaii Electric Light Co. Outages could last through the weekend or longer, the utility said.