Tags: iselle | hawaii | tropical | storm | julio

Iselle Sweeps Hawaii as Weaker Tropical Storm, Julio Follows

Image: Iselle Sweeps Hawaii as Weaker Tropical Storm, Julio Follows
In this composite image provided by NASA, Hurricane Iselle (L) is followed by Hurricane Julio as they approach Hawaii from the east in early August, 2014. (Jeff Schmaltz/NASA/LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response via Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 08 Aug 2014 06:18 AM

One-time Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall early Friday in Hawaii, while strengthened Hurricane Julio following close behind was largely expected to pass north of the islands.

The National Weather Service downgraded Iselle to a tropical storm about 50 miles before reaching the southern part of Hawaii's Big Island, according to The Associated Press. Wind and rain from the system still had enough oomph to knock down trees, cause power outages and block some roads. No deaths or major injuries were reported late Thursday.

Iselle was classified as a tropical storm at 11 p.m. Thursday Hawaii Standard Time when its winds slowed to 70 mph, putting it below the minimum of 74 mph for a hurricane.

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Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio strengthened into a Category 3 storm and followed Iselle's path with sustained maximum winds of 115 mph. Julio is projected to head just north of the islands sometime early Sunday morning.

Hawaii has been directly hit by hurricanes only three times since 1950. The last time Hawaii was hit with a hurricane or tropical storm was in 1992, when Hurricane Iniki killed six people and destroyed more than 1,400 homes in Kauai, Lau said.

Iselle was weakening because of several factors, including wind shear chopping at the system and the Big Island's terrain above the water, said Chris Brenchley, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

"It can start to feel the drain," he said. "As wind blows into the terrain, the terrain kind of redirects the wind."

Even before its center touched land, tropical storm Iselle knocked out power on parts of the Big Island, one of the least populated islands. Iselle was expected to pass over the Big Island, known for coffee fields, volcanoes and black sand beaches, and then send rain and high winds to the rest of the state later Friday.

Emergency officials on the Big Island sent a warning to nearby residents after a geothermal plant accidentally released an unknown amount of steam containing hydrogen sulfide, a smelly, poisonous compound. Crews were working to control the release and monitor the emissions, while nearby residents were urged to evacuate if they experience discomfort, Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi's office said. It was not clear whether the release was directly related to the storm.

On Maui, power to a water treatment plant went out, prompting county officials to ask Kula residents in the middle of the island to conserve water. About 2,700 people on the island were without power late Thursday night.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie said the state is prepared for the back-to-back storms, noting the National Guard is at the ready and state and local governments were closing offices, schools and transit services across Hawaii.

State Attorney General David Louie promised that Saturday's primary elections, including congressional and gubernatorial races, will go forward as planned.

As residents prepared for the possible one-two punch of storms, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck the Big Island but didn't cause major damage. There were no reports of injuries.

Travelers faced disrupted plans when at least 50 flights were canceled Thursday from several airlines, including Hawaiian Airlines, Delta, United, Air China and WestJet, the Hawaii Tourism Authority and airlines said.

American Airlines and US Airways canceled flights in and out of the Big Island and Maui after 6 p.m. Thursday through noon Friday. Commuter airline Island Air canceled some afternoon flights and shut down all operations Friday.

Hawaiian Airlines canceled some inter-island flights for Thursday evening and moved its Maui-Los Angeles flight up by nearly five hours. The airline waived reservation change fees and fare differences for passengers who needed to alter their plans Thursday and Friday.

Other attractions also announced plans to stay closed for all or part of Friday, including the Royal Hawaiian Center mall in Waikiki and the Polynesian Cultural Center near Oahu's north shore.

The storms are rare but not unexpected in years with a developing El Nino, a change in ocean temperature that affects weather around the world.

Ahead of this year's hurricane season, weather officials warned the wide swath of the Pacific Ocean that includes Hawaii could see four to seven tropical storms this year.

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One-time Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall early Friday in Hawaii, while strengthened Hurricane Julio following close behind was largely expected to pass north of the islands.
iselle, hawaii, tropical, storm, julio
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2014-18-08
Friday, 08 Aug 2014 06:18 AM
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