In the aftermath of Iselle, Puna community pulls together in support

PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the aftermath of Iselle, the one consistent message circulating through the Puna district was how quickly residents in the community pulled together to help one another. 

Kellie Wikel and her five kids were all home when Iselle's punishing winds came barreling through. 

"The wind was howling it was whistling, it was awful -- and in the morning time, I cried just looking at.  I had major structural damage, the roof was down there.  It looked like God had took the trees and made a big pile of pick-up sticks.  It was complete devastation, complete flattening," Wikel said. 

Tarps now replace roofs throughout the Nanawale Estates neighborhood -- as massive albizia trees slammed into homes. 

"It started right here and it was just boom, boom, boom.  All the way around and it would just shake the house," said Wikel. 

Wikel says the majority of folks who live in her subdivision live off water catchment, but they're now collecting rainwater just to flush their toilets and save what little is left in their tanks.  Ten days after Iselle slammed the area, the Wikels and approximately 2,000 other HELCO customers are still without power.

"We're going to be two maybe three weeks out before we get electricity because our roads are too narrow.  There's too little space to get HELCO to do what they need to do.  We need to get the roads cleared another four feet," Wikel said, explaining what county officials recently told her.

But Kellie says her family's suffering was saved by a Good Samaritan -- a woman on facebook who brought her a generator and showed up with nearly 25 volunteers to help clear the debris from her home and yard. 

"We had those people come in -- before you couldn't walk not five feet back here, and they cleared all of this out within like an hour," Wikel said. 

The outpouring of support has lifted Kellie.  Though her home still needs a lot of work, she spends her days volunteering at the county's distribution center and disaster assistance recovery site. 

"It's the community, it's the neighbors -- each of us helping each other is what's going to get it done," Wikel said.  "I know my family is safe.  I know they're taken care of, I need to make sure others are safe."

Every single donation in the Puna district makes a difference.  According to Wikel, it only takes $10 dollars to keep two chainsaws running all day or to power a generator for five hours.

Hawai'i Island United Way has partnered with the Hawai'i County Civil Defense to coordinate the relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Iselle. If you or anyone you know would like to make donations of ice, water, household goods or hygiene items, or would like to offer manpower assistance to help with distribution of items, please call Janice at 808-936-2268 or email If you or anyone you know of is in need of assistance, please call Janice at 808-936-2268 or email 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: 

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