Big Island receives first taste of hurricane

HONOLULU – Barely holding on to hurricane strength, Iselle’s outer edges brought rain and wind to Hawaii Island on Thursday as it approached landfall, poised to become the first hurricane or tropical storm to hit the island chain in 22 years and whose path another hurricane closely followed.

Hurricane Iselle was expected to pass overnight across the Big Island, then send rain and high winds to the rest of the state today. The storm’s predicted track had it skirting just south of the other islands.

“Whoop, there goes the power,” 29-year-old Andrew Fujimura of Puna said as he spoke with an Associated Press reporter on Thursday night. “It’s fine. We’ll just go to bed early tonight, I guess.”

Fujimura was trading videos with a friend in Maui to help the friend anticipate what weather conditions to expect. The videos show loud winds blowing through palm trees, white foamy waves chopping high onto shoreline shrubs and rocks – even a surfer riding rolling waves with an overcast sky.

Waves were breaking about 15 feet to 20 feet, Fujimura said.

“I can’t say I’m too worried,” he said. “Worst-case scenario, the power may go out a day or two. But we’re prepared for that kind of stuff out here.”

Forecasters were analyzing storm data before making possible changes to its categorization, National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Lau said.

“But we’re not really too concerned about the track or the intensity of the system,” Lau said. “We’re primarily urging residents to still take proper precautions to prepare themselves to keep everyone safe.”

Hundreds of people flowed into emergency shelters set up at high schools on the Big Island, one of which lost power. Crews worked to restore electricity to the shelter in Pahoa with at least 140 people.

Power also was lost Thursday evening in two communities on the Big Island: Waimea, a town of about 9,200 people near the island’s north shore, and Puna, a district scattered with residents south of Hilo, Hawaii County Civil Defense officials said.

Mayor Billy Kenoi told KHON-TV that no major injuries or damage from the first bits of wind and rain have been reported.

But heavy rains led authorities on the Big Island to issue a flood advisory.

People got ready for the storm by making last-minute trips to the store and boarding up windows at their homes.

“It’s getting more windy, and it’s raining pretty good,” said Denise Laitinen on the Big Island. “But I’m ready for it. Everything outside is secured, and I’ve boarded up the picture windows. I feel good about being prepared for anything these storms bring us.”

Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio, strengthened into a Category 3 storm and followed Iselle’s path with sustained maximum winds of 115 mph. It was about 1,000 miles behind Iselle and projected to head just north of the islands sometime early Sunday morning.