Hawaii Hurricanes Iselle and Julio: First Hand Account From A Big Islander

Thu Aug 07, 2014 19:01:37PM
Categories: Hurricanes & Hawaii

NOAA's GOES-West satellite image of cyclones Iselle and Julio headed toward Hawaii.By: NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Since I am currently living on the Big Island of Hawaii, in Hilo about a mile from bay front, I thought I would put my time to use (while hunkered down) blogging about a first hand account with Hurricane's Iselle and Julio. I plan to do this blog like an updating journal entry. So if interested, keep checking back as I will update it a few times a day on through Monday, documenting both storms and their effects.

To begin, here's the situation:

It's been 22 years since a hurricane or tropical storm has hit the islands of Hawaii head on. In 1992, Hurricane Iniki, a category 4 storm that caused 6 deaths and close to $2 million in total property damage, including about 5,000 homes hit Kaua'i island hard, with wind gusts reaching up to 145 miles per hour.

This time around, 2 cyclones are heading straight for the island chain, one behind the other and just days apart. The first cyclone is Iselle, and the second has been named Julio. It's unclear if they will ultimately be hurricanes or tropical storms (big difference being wind speed). But what is clear is that Iselle will start things off by hitting the Big Island first (in particular the side of the island that I'm on). And with that, this will be the first time in recorded history (since at least 1950) that a hurricane has ever hit the Big Island of Hawaii.


8/7/2014 6:42pm (Hawaii time)

Everyone's waiting for the storm to hit. It's been raining off and on with moderately harsh wind gusts throughout the day, since last night around midnight. The sky is overcast. Being that I spent most of my life in northeastern Texas, I would equate the atmosphere here in Hilo to that of pre-tornado weather. There's a feeling in the air of a 'calm before the storm' right now. Few people are on the road, running their last bit of errands. My current roommate works with one of the community run, emergency organizations here, and she says that they anticipate some nasty high winds tonight, along with a fair amount of property damage on the bay front area (right at the coast). I live about 1 mile from the beach, and, since the Big Island is essentially a collection of volcanoes, I am elevated a bit from the coast. Gives me the impression that any flood damage will be minimized. But, then again, I've never been in a hurricane/tropical storm before. 60-95 miles/hour wind gusts is intense and damaging, no matter how high up you are, I guess. Supposedly, the storm is going to begin around 8pm our time, so I'll do another entry a little after that, talking about initial effects.

8/7/2014 9:08pm (Hawaii time)

As it grew dark in the last few hours, the sky turned a few shades of discerning hues of green, pink and yellow. The wind gusts have gradually picked up, with many quick harsher bursts coming within the last few minutes. Weather.com is reporting them to be around 25-30 miles per hour. Otherwise, scattered, light rain and wind gusts are all that's happening at the moment. All the local weather estimates now have the storm really picking up in effect around 1am HST, with estimates of around 45-55 miles an hour winds, and beginning of 5-12 inches of rain fall, along with 15-25 ft swells on the shoreline. I'll update in the morning on all that.

8/8/2014 12:47pm (Hawaii time)

The effects from Iselle were pretty minimal, at least in my neighborhood. I stayed up late last night, to around 3am, because I didn't want to be asleep in case something terrible happened. What took place though was akin to a tough and loud thunderstorm. The wind gusts were strong, but nothing I hadn't experienced before in a Texas downpour. Reports say the wind reached speeds of 60-65 miles an hour around 2:30am this morning. In proportion, that sounds about right. For Iselle to have counted as a hurricane, speeds would have had to have maintained 75+ mph through impact. Story goes that the Big Islands' rigid coastline chopped up and slowed down the storm, as it made its way across the eastern side of the island. Several thousands of people have lost power because of the storm. But total damage, at least for the Big Island of Hawaii, seems to have been nothing more than fallen trees on roads and minor flooding in certain areas. We did see swells up to 25ft high last night/early this morning. That's an intensely high wave of ocean water, no doubt. Luckily, everyone here was super cautious and alert, prepared. No one was around and taken by surprise by a monster wave, far as I know.

As of right now in Hilo, out my window its overcast and the sky's are grey. But, I was surprised to see the brightness of the sun peaking its way out from the clouds. Even more surprised to see that it's not raining right now. The next storm, Julio, is still on its way. And they are calling it a category 3 storm. No joke. But luckily, Julio appears to be headed north of the island chain, and might not hit us at all. Or, the effects will once again be minimal. If anything else happens of note with Iselle or Julio, I will do another entry in between now and Monday. Otherwise, I'll do at least one more on Monday to wrap up the story.
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