HAWAIIAN PARADISE PARK, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Family members and friends spent the last two days working around the clock to clear a Hawaiian Paradise Park property from an unbelievable amount of debris in the aftermath of Iselle.
Tracy Gravela says she knows her family is lucky to be alive and is grateful her house is still standing, but days after Iselle barreled through her neighborhood, she's still shaky talking about it.
"It's just the aftermath -- everybody feels it, whether your house is demolished or not -- we still feel it," said Tracy Gravela, who has been living in the lower Puna district since 2007.
Tracy's home was filled with family when the storm hit. The first big albizia tree that came crashing down startled them -- and by the time the second one had fallen, they were crawling out their window into their cars with help from their neighbors.
"I think there were seven or eight trees on top of the house and you could just hear snapping trees every ten fifteen seconds," said neighbor Erik Biondo. "It was pretty shocking. The wind would come in waves, almost like an ocean set, so you could hear it down below and maybe four or five streets down and it would come over like a wave," Biondo described.
When Tracy returned the next day to see the damage for the first time, the roads were blocked by toppled trees so she was forced to walk in.
"I was walking down my driveway and what I saw was," Gravela said choking up. "Just to think that I didn't want to evacuate. I wanted to stay in my home and I had my babies with me -- my granddaughters -- and I saw all the damage," Gravela said. "I couldn't see the water tank. Where my room is, there were big trees. My granddaughters' room there was a big tree over there that just fell. My roof was covered with trees, I couldn't see my backyard. Nothing."
Biondo says it was incredible to witness family and friends from all over the island descend upon the Gravela's property to help dig them out.
"I thought the property would be locked and blocked forever. You couldn't hardly see the house. You couldn't see the water tank. You couldn't see the road -- so it looked like we were going to be trapped for a long time. It's just good to see the community come together and get it done so quick. It was crazy. I didn't think it was possible, but it was with community and aloha," Biondo said.
Many have asked how they can help those who've been impacted by Iselle. Hawai'i Island United Way is accepting donations of ice, water, household goods or hygiene items, even manpower assistance to help with distribution of items. Please call Janice at 808-936-2268 or email email@example.com. If you or anyone you know of is in need of assistance, please call Janice at 808-936-2268 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For emergency assistance, please call 9-1-1.
If you would like to make a donation to help with the relief efforts, you may do so at: www.hiunitedway.org/iselle