Tropical Storm Iselle weakens on Hawaii approach

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Tropical Storm Iselle weakens on Hawaii approach
Amazing sight here in Hilo, HI. The Wailuku River rose 13 feet in just 12 hours, says @WXmel6. http://t.co/i253kQSnXA
Rain falls on Diamond Head and Waikiki in Honolulu on the island of Oahu on Friday, Aug, 8, 2014. Iselle came ashore onto the Big Island early Friday as a weakened tropical storm, while Hurricane Julio, close behind it, strengthened and is forecasted to pass north of the islands. Iselle is the first tropical storm to hit the state in 22 years. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Two surfers head for the waves in Honolulu on Friday, Aug, 8, 2014. High surf is expected in some spots on Oahu due to Tropical Storm Iselle. Iselle came ashore early Friday as a weakened tropical storm, while Hurricane Julio, close behind it, strengthened and is forecasted to pass north of the islands. Iselle is the first tropical storm to hit the state in 22 years. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
With a rainbow in the background, a surfer paddles to shore in Honolulu on Friday, Aug, 8, 2014. Iselle came ashore early Friday as a weakened tropical storm, while Hurricane Julio, close behind it, strengthened and is forecasted to pass north of the islands. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
In preparation for heavy winds, workers at the Hale Koa Hotel remove an awning from an outdoor stage in Honolulu on Friday, Aug, 8, 2014. Iselle came ashore early Friday as a weakened tropical storm, while Hurricane Julio, close behind it, strengthened and is forecasted to pass north of the islands. Iselle is the first tropical storm to hit the state in 22 years. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
This image provided by NOAA taken at 2 a.m. EDT Friday Aug. 8, 2014 shows Hurricane Iselle approaching the Island of Hawaii, left as Hurricane Julio with a well defined eye follows. (AP Photo/NOAA)
A sea turtle lies on the beach in Kailua, Hawaii on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)
A sign inside the Walmart McDonalds restaurant alerts customers that it sent its employees home early in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, as the area prepares for Hurricane Iselle. Hurricane Iselle is expected to arrive on the Big Island on Thursday evening, bringing heavy rains, winds gusting up to 85 mph and flooding in some areas. Weather officials changed their outlook on the system Wednesday after seeing it get a little stronger, giving it enough oomph to stay a hurricane as it reaches landfall. (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)
A hurricane warning sign is shown posted on the beach in Kailua, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014., as the area prepares for Hurricane Iselle. Hurricane Iselle is expected to arrive on the Big Island on Thursday evening, bringing heavy rains, winds gusting up to 85 mph and flooding in some areas. Weather officials changed their outlook on the system Wednesday after seeing it get a little stronger, giving it enough oomph to stay a hurricane as it reaches landfall. (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)
A sea turtle lies on the beach in Kailua, Hawaii on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)
Clouds hang over Honolulu, seen from the top of Tanalus Drive on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
This image provided by NOAA taken at 2 a.m. EDT Friday Aug. 8, 2014 shows Hurricane Iselle approaching the Island of Hawaii, left as Hurricane Julio with a well defined eye follows. (AP Photo/NOAA)
NOAA satellite loop of Hurricane Iselle and Hurricane Julio taken on Thursday, August 7, 2014. Both are heading for Hawaii in a rare case of back-to-back hurricanes for Hawaii. Iselle will be the first hurricane to hit Hawaii in 22 years.
Staff members of the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua, Hawaii take down umbrellas as the resort prepares for Hurricane Iselle on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. Hurricane Iselle is expected to arrive on the Big Island on Thursday evening, bringing heavy rains, winds gusting up to 85 mph and flooding in some areas. Weather officials changed their outlook on the system Wednesday after seeing it get a little stronger, giving it enough oomph to stay a hurricane as it reaches landfall. (AP Photo/Chris Stewart)
A traffic jam forms in front of the Menehune Water Company as customers wait to purchase water from the company, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Aiea, Hawaii. Hawaii is bracing for two back to back hurricanes, Iselle and Julio, which are on course to hit the Islands. Bottles of water are quickly disappearing off shelves in Hawaii causing many people to line up for several hours to purchase water directly from the water company. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
People line up at the Menehune Water Company to purchase cases of water and fill up water jugs in Aiea, Hawaii on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Hurricanes Iselle and Julio approaching, bottles of water are disappearing off shelves in Hawaii prompting many to line up for several hours to purchase water directly from the company. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
People line up at the Menehune Water Company to purchase cases of water and fill up water jugs in Aiea, Hawaii on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Hurricanes Iselle and Julio approaching, bottles of water are disappearing off shelves in Hawaii prompting many to line up for several hours to purchase water directly from the company. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Beach goers are seen on Waikiki Beach, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Honolulu. Hawaii is bracing for both Hurricane Iselle and Julio which are on course to hit the Hawaiian Islands. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Anne Kllingshirn of Kailua, Hawaii walks with her daughter Emma, 1, as storm clouds are are seen during the sunrise hours on Kailua Beach, in Kailua, Hawaii, Thursday morning Aug. 7, 2014 . Hurricane Iselle is expected to arrive on the Big Island on Thursday evening, bringing heavy rains, winds gusting up to 85 mph and flooding in some areas. Weather officials changed their outlook on the system Wednesday after seeing it get a little stronger, giving it enough oomph to stay a hurricane as it reaches landfall. (AP Photo/Luci Pemoni)
While surrounded by state and local officials, Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie speaks at a news conference at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency in Diamond Head, Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014, in Honolulu. Hawaii is bracing for two back to back hurricanes, Iselle and Julio, which are on course to hit the Hawaiian Islands. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
A group of tourists from California head into the water for a surf lesson in Waikiki in Honolulu on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
A couple reads a weather update written on a white board in the lobby of a hotel in Waikiki in Honolulu on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Tourist Denise Newland of New Zealand reads a hurricane update in the lobby of a hotel in Waikiki in Honolulu on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
People walk past a pallet of bottled water being delivered to a shop in Waikiki in Honolulu on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014. With Iselle, Hawaii is expected to take its first direct hurricane hit in 22 years. Tracking close behind it is Hurricane Julio. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
On Aug. 5, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor on the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite captured natural-color images of both Iselle and Hurricane Julio en route to Hawaii. This image is a composite of three satellite passes over the tropical Pacific Ocean in the early afternoon.

NOAA satellite loop of Hurricane Iselle and Hurricane Julio taken on Thursday, August 7, 2014. Both are heading for Hawaii in a rare case of back-to-back hurricanes for Hawaii. Iselle, expected to make landfall Thursday night, will be the first hurricane to hit Hawaii in 22 years.

Graphic shows the current and forecasted location and storm information for Hurricanes Iselle and Julio; 3c x 3 3/4 inches; 146 mm x 95 mm;
NOAA satellite loop of Hurricane Iselle and Hurricane Julio taken on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. Both are heading for Hawaii in an unusual one-two punch of Pacific tropical storm systems.
NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of Hurricane Iselle over the Pacific Ocean at 10:40 a.m. Hawaiian daylight time on August 4, 2014.
Graphic shows the current and forecasted location and storm information for Hurricanes Iselle and Julio; 3c x 3 3/4 inches; 146 mm x 95 mm;
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 6: In this handout provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) from the GOES-East satellite, four separate weather system (L-R) Halong, Genevieve, Iselle, and Julio are tracked in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the United States pictured at 0z on August 6, 2014. High pressure from the North is forcing Hurricane Iselle, with top winds of 85 miles and Hurricane Julio, with winds of 75 mph towards the islands of Hawaii. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)
NOAA satellite loop of Hurricane Iselle and Hurricane Julio taken on Wednesday, August 6, 2014. Both are heading for Hawaii in an unusual one-two punch of Pacific tropical storm systems.
NOAA satellite loop of Tropical Storm Julio taken on Wedesday, August 6, 2014. Both Julio and Hurricane Iselle are heading for Hawaii in an unusual one-two punch of Pacific tropical storm systems.
This image provided by NOAA taken Wednesday Aug. 6, 2014 shows Hurricane Iselle, center, and tropical storm Julio, right. Though it's not clear how damaging the storms could be, many in Hawaii aren't taking any chances as they wait for Hurricane Iselle to make landfall later this week and Tropical Storm Julio potentially hitting a few days later. (AP Photo/NOAA)
Shoppers lift cases of bottled water in preparation for a hurricane and tropical storm heading toward Hawaii at the Iwilei Costco in Honolulu on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Two big storms so close together is rare in the eastern Pacific. Hurricane Iselle could make landfall by Friday and Tropical Storm Julio could hit two or three days later, weather officials said. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Acting Director Tom Evans of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center speaks during a briefing in Honolulu on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Weather forecasters are predicting four to seven tropical cyclones in the central Pacific Ocean during this year's hurricane season. (AP Photo/Oskar Garcia)
NOAA's GOES-West satellite captured this image of a very active Eastern and Central Pacific, hosting three tropical cyclones (from left to right) Genevieve, Iselle and Julio.
Shoppers stock up on cases of bottled water and other supplies in preparation for a hurricane and tropical storm heading toward Hawaii at the Iwilei Costco in Honolulu on Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. Two big storms so close together is rare in the eastern Pacific, and Hurricane Iselle could make landfall by Friday and Tropical Storm Julio could hit two or three days later, weather officials said. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Pedestrians walk along Waikiki beach in Honolulu on Monday, July 29, 2013 as Tropical Storm Flossie approached Hawaii. The storm faded through the morning, but forecasters were still warning residents and tourists to brace for possible flooding, wind gusts, mudslides and big waves. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
Few people visited Waikiki beach in Honolulu on Monday, July 29, 2013 as Tropical Storm Flossie approached Hawaii. The storm faded through the morning, but forecasters were still warning residents and tourists to brace for possible flooding, wind gusts, mudslides and big waves. (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy)
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By JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER and AUDREY McAVOY
Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) -- The first storm in a one-two punch that sent Hawaii scrambling to brace itself weakened on its approach to the state, while a second system 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 it was expected to make landfall early Friday in the southern part of Hawaii's Big Island.

Wind and rain from the system still had enough force to knock down trees, cause power outages and block roads on the Big Island, however. No deaths or major injuries were reported.

Tropical Storm Iselle Is Still a Threat

Iselle was classified as a tropical storm 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.

The storm 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.

"As wind blows into the terrain, the terrain kind of redirects the wind," he said.


Nevertheless, Iselle is expected to be the first tropical storm to actually hit the state in 22 years, and another hurricane is following in its path. Hurricane Julio, a Category 3 storm, is about 1,000 miles behind in the Pacific.

Iselle, which is moving at 10 mph, was expected to pass overnight across the Big Island and then send rain and high winds to the rest of the state Friday. At midnight Friday Hawaii Standard Time, the weather service issued a flash-flood warning for the island.

The storm's predicted track had it skirting just south of the other islands, starting with Maui.

Even before its center touched land, tropical storm Iselle knocked out power on parts of the Big Island, one of the least populated islands.

"Whoop, there goes the power," 29-year-old Andrew Fujimura of Puna said as he spoke with an Associated Press reporter 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 see 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 on the Big Island's eastern shore.

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."

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.

Hundreds of people flowed into emergency shelters set up at high schools, 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.

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 in the town of Pukalani, about 10 miles southeast of Maui's main airport.

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

Meanwhile, Hurricane Julio strengthened into a Category 3 storm and followed Iselle's path with sustained maximum winds of 120 mph. Julio is projected to head just north of the islands sometime early Sunday morning.

Next Big Storm Julio Is Closing In on Hawaii

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.

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.

"What we're asking the people to do now is pay attention, stay focused and listen to the directions," he said.

Abercrombie said President Barack Obama had been briefed on Hurricane Iselle by federal emergency management officials.

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, a 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck the Big Island but didn't cause major damage or 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. Some 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.

After high winds hit Maui, California couple Rudy Cruz and Ashley Dochnahl left the island earlier than planned, getting to Oahu but failing to secure a flight back home. "We were trying to beat it, but we now will have to ride it out," Cruz said.

The storms are rare but not unexpected in El Nino years, 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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