HONOLULU (AP) – Flossie’s Hawaiian adventure: Short, scattered and more powerful than many believed it would be at first.
National Weather Service officials say the tropical depression is expected to exit Hawaii on Tuesday as a weakened version of the storm that prompted school and court closures and an emergency declaration from Gov. Neil Abercrombie before hitting shore.
But hours after surfers caught waves on the Big Island and tourists sunbathed despite showers and overcast skies in Waikiki, Flossie made its mark on the state with widespread thunder and lightning, heavy rain and winds that knocked out power to thousands on several islands.
“Mother nature throws curve balls at us to make us more busy,” said Michael Cantin, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
Maui County officials said Monday night that widespread power outages were affecting water service on many parts of Maui and Molokai, with no estimate of when power will be restored.
Winds and rainfall from the faltering system earlier knocked out power for about 6,500 people on Maui and the Big Island.
On Oahu, rolling thunder rumbled across the most populous island in the chain, causing the term “thunder” to trend in Honolulu on Twitter.
“Be sure to have your flashlights charged and ready,” Abercrombie said on his official Twitter account.
Forecasters said the thunderstorms could bring small hail to Oahu.
The National Weather Service canceled all storm warnings for Tropical Storm Flossie in Hawaii on Monday evening, keeping a flash flood watch in effect statewide until Tuesday night. The service later issued a flash flood warning for Maui, where live television footage showed thunder and lightning, fast-moving clouds and plenty of rain and wind.
At one point, rain fell at rates of 4 inches per hour, and the service recommended people in low-lying areas move to higher ground right away.
Weather officials said a downgraded Flossie could still cause outages and road closures, with wind gusts up to 40 mph through mountain passes.
The downgrade came before Flossie hit Oahu. With the depression still a few hours away, emergency officials dealt with a high number of accidents _ including six within an hour on one road connecting the eastern side of the island with the main part of Honolulu.
Darren Pai, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric Company, said about 4,500 people were without power on the Big Island on Monday night as the utility responded to multiple outages that started in the late morning. Another roughly 2,000 people lost power in Kihei, Maui, but were restored. Other outages were reported in Hana and Piiholo before being restored, Pai said.
Flossie faded through the morning thanks to winds that broke layers of the storm apart, said Tom Evans, acting director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Warnings about the storm didn’t stop some tourists from heading to popular beaches, despite urgings from state officials to cancel all beach trips until further notice. In Waikiki, beaches were unusually sparse as those outside contended with overcast skies and rain ahead of Flossie’s arrival.
Kelly Tarkington, a college student from Savannah, Ga., got a sunburn from spending eight hours on the beach Sunday but had to take refuge from the rain under a beach umbrella Monday along with her aunt.
“I’m mostly worried about our flight out of here tomorrow night,” Tarkington said.
Residents and government officials spent the weekend preparing for the storm’s arrival. In addition to the closures, shelters opened statewide.
The U.S. Coast Guard closed three ports _ two on the Big Island where the storm was expected first, and a third port on Maui. Airports statewide were open Monday but many flights were being canceled.
Trails and campgrounds also were closed on the Big Island.
Officials warned people to leave their homes if asked.
“I woke up to blue skies. It was just a beautiful day out,” Ian Shortridge, 22, of Kealakekua, on the west side of the Big Island, said Monday.
Shortridge said he saw McDonald’s employees boarding up windows Sunday. Store shelves were running low of essentials like bottled water and toilet paper, he said.
Melanie and Ian Jenkins of Portsmouth, England, tried to catch some sun lying on Waikiki Beach but were close to giving up as raindrops fell on the sand.
“It’s still warmer than England,” Ian Jenkins said.
Karen Eckert, who operates Mango Sunset Bed & Breakfast on a family coffee farm in Kailua-Kona, said some of her guests changed their plans as she secured windows and moved outdoor furniture inside.
“The tops of coffee trees look like they are doing the wave at a baseball game or something. They are bending over at least 30 degrees,” she said. “I hope they’ll be alright.”
Oskar Garcia can be reached at
http://twitter.com/oskargarcia. Associated Press writers Jennifer Sinco Kelleher and Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu, and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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