Hawaii Island is starting to feel the effects of Madeline, which started Wednesday as a category 1 hurricane then weakened to a tropical storm by 2 p.m.
The center of the storm is more than a hundred miles away, but the outer bands are starting to reach the county.
Heavy rain associated with Madeline fell over Hilo and Puna for much of the day.
It was a ghost town with businesses along Hilo Bay as many boarded up their storefronts and propped sandbags for protection.
We stopped by Umauma River and noticed brown storm water surging through, similar to the scene at Akaka Falls. Umauma Bridge on Highway 19 in Hamakua was closed until about 7:30 p.m.
Over in Kapoho, storm surge from the tide pools flooded Kapoho Kai Drive, rendering it impassable.
More road closures were reported by Hawaii County Civil Defense in Hilo due to flooding:
- Kamehameha Avenue between Manono and Ponahawai streets
- Lihiwai Street through Liliuokalani Gardens
- East Kawailani Street below Kanoelehua Avenue
County officials are urging folks to stay off the roads so first responders can get through in the event of an emergency.
Fourteen emergency shelters opened at 5 p.m. Tuesday and many took advantage of them as the storm approached.
Christy Aranaydo, shelter manager at Keaau High School, said there were 55 people present by noon Wednesday.
“They’re coming in because of the weather changing right now, because the wind shifting and the rain, so most of the people I know come from their housing to feel safer over here,” she said.
Mac Hambrosio says the sounds of Albizia trees snapping during Iselle back in 2014 scarred his family. They now seek shelter each time there is a major storm.
“Since I got a big family with grandchildren, all I can think of is safety,” he said.
“It’s a safe place, it’s comfortable. We try to assist them and try to make it real comfortable for them and just provide that extra little bit care that they need,” said Hawaii County employee Aukai Wong.
In her past experiences operating shelters, Aranaydo said “some people used to come in at 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning, when they feel more threatened, because when the waters — some people gotta swim out of their places like Hawaiian Acres, Orchidland, then they come up.”
As of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, approximately 235 customers in Honokaa, Kohala, South Hilo, Mountain View, Kurtistown, and Hawaiian Paradise Park were without power.
During the course of the day an estimated 3,600 customers experienced power interruptions due to the effects of Madeline, but crews were able to restore power to all but the 235 that remain out.
Power restoration will likely be delayed until daylight to ensure the safety of crews. “We won’t send employees into areas where trees are falling or when lightning, wind, heavy rain or darkness make it unsafe to work,” said Hawaii Electric Light spokeswoman Rhea Lee-Moku. “The large albizia trees, which are prone to breaking and falling especially during storm conditions, pose a serious threat to our personnel. It is much safer to manage this hazard during daylight hours especially during inclement weather.”
Hawaii Electric Light will continue to monitor the effects of Madeline, and also monitor the approaching Hurricane Lester. Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric are ready to assist with the restoration process, if needed, as are other utilities in Hawaii and the Western U.S. that are part of a mutual assistance group.