HONOLULU, Hawaii – The first storm in a one-two punch heading for Hawaii clamoured ashore overnight Friday as a weakened tropical storm, while a second system close behind it also weakened and was on track to pass north of the islands.
Iselle, the first tropical storm to hit the state in 22 years, knocked out power, caused flooding and downed trees when it crossed onto the Big Island in a rural and sparsely populated region. There have been no reports of major injuries, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said Friday.
About 21,000 homes remained without power on the Big Island, Hawaii County Civil Defence spokesman John Drummond said. At least 50 flights were cancelled by several airlines.
Those staying in shelters were told to return home, while crews and some residents used chain saws to clear trees from roads.
Heavy rains and wind from the storm’s outer bands hit Maui and Oahu on Friday morning but eased later in the day as Iselle swirled farther out to sea.
On Oahu’s south shore, near Honolulu, the cloudy skies started to give way to patches of blue as tourists and residents ventured out to see the surf.
Honolulu’s lifeguard division said about a dozen surfers were riding waves Friday at a spot nicknamed “Suicides,” near the popular Diamond Head crater. Lifeguards on Oahu planned only to respond to emergency calls, avoiding regular patrols.
The National Weather Service cancelled the tropical storm warning for the Big Island, Oahu and Maui on Friday afternoon, but kept it in effect for Kauai.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio, about 750 miles (1,200 kilometres) east of the Big Island, was a Category 2 storm and packed maximum sustained winds of about 105 mph (169 kph). National Weather Service officials predict it will continue to weaken on a path that should take it about 200 miles (322 kilometres) north of the island chain starting sometime Sunday morning.
If Julio stays on track, “the impacts to the islands would be minimal,” Weather Service meteorologist Derek Wroe said. “We would see some large surf. … We could see some heavy showers. That’s all assuming this track holds. Otherwise, we could still see some tropical storm conditions.”
Hurricanes or tropical storms had directly hit Hawaii only three times since 1950. The last time was in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes in Kauai.
The storm affected some Big Island residents who planned to vote in primary races Saturday to choose congressional and gubernatorial candidates for the November national elections: State elections officials say they will postpone the primary election for about 8,000 voters in two precincts because of nearby road damage caused by the storm.
The rest of the primary will move forward as planned, and the two precincts will vote absentee later, Chief Election Office Scott Nago said.
Associated Press writers Oskar Garcia, Cathy Bussewitz and Manuel Valdes in Honolulu; Karin Stanton in Kailua-Kona; and Brian Skoloff in Phoenix contributed to this report.