Tens of thousands of Waikoloa visitors & residents brace for Hurricane Iselle

Tens of thousands of Waikoloa visitors & residents brace for Hurricane Iselle

Hurricane Iselle was downgraded to a Tropical Storm just before making landfall in East Hawai'i County around 2 a.m. Friday. Heavy rain and high winds walloped lower Puna and most of the Hilo-side of the island. Gusts were reported upwards of 80 mph and gauges in some spots reached 15 inches of rain. Toppled trees and downed power lines are blocking roadways in and out of the area. HELCO confirms 22,000 customers are still without electricity. At the height of the storm Thursday night, more than 30,000 lost power.

West Hawai'i was spared any significant damage from Iselle. Weather experts say the sheer magnitude of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea stopped the tropical storm and protected west Hawai'i County from the severe weather.

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It is still dry in Waikoloa but very breezy, with consistently strong -- yet unpredictable gusts. Even though Hurricane Iselle has not made landfall yet, Hawai‘i Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has declared a state of emergency. Officials with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center want to remind folks in East Hawai‘i County that while they may have ready experienced heavy rains, the worst is yet to come. HELCO has confirmed there are at least 5,200 customers without power as a result of heavy winds.

According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center update released moments ago, there has been no change to Iselle's projected strength or track. She is still expected to make landfall off Hilo as a Category 1 hurricane with gusts potentially up to 120 mph. A flood advisory is now in effect for all of Hawai‘i Island as well.

An interagency state press conference provided this latest Hurricane Iselle update, as of 1 p.m. Thursday, August 7: According to Mike Cantin from the National Weather Service, Hurricane Iselle is weakening a little, but still packing hurricane-strength winds at 80 mph. Iselle will pass near or over Hawai'i Island as a hurricane and the system is expected to arrive late Thursday afternoon -- right now, it's tracking sometime around 4 - 6 PM & the eye of the storm is anticipated around 8 - 10 PM. Approximately 4 - 7 inches of heavy rain is expected to fall over Hawai'i County with a possibility of up to 8 inches in a few areas and perhaps as much as 12 inches in some spots. 15-25 foot waves along the E/NE shores of Hawai'i Island and Maui are projected. The ocean will be choppy and rough and officials are urging every one to stay out of the water. Power outages are likely, so please be prepared with flashlights and candles as needed. Cantin says Hawai'i Island needs to be prepared for 6-8 hours of high winds and possibly 10 hours of heavy rain once the system hits. "Stay hunkered down. Don't venture out. Stay protected," Cantin advised. According to the Department of Education Superintendent, all schools on Hawai'i Island, Maui, O'ahu and Kaua'i will be closed tomorrow (Friday, August 8). Governor Abercrombie confirms all state offices will also be closed tomorrow. Attorney General David Louie says the primary elections will still take place on Saturday, August 9 -- however, Hawai'i Island early polling offices will close at 1 p.m. Thursday. The state Department of Transportation confirms airports statewide are open and every effort will be made to keep them operating. Emergency shelters on Hawai'i Island are opening at noon today and a complete list of all the locations are available on our website.

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