Powerful storm hits Hawaii, leaves 150 000 without power in Maui

Powerful storm hits Hawaii, leaves 150 000 without power in Maui

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A powerful storm hit Hawaii late Monday, October 23 into Tuesday, October 24 with powerful winds, numerous lightning strikes and heavy rain that knocked out power to the entire island of Maui. At least one teenage girl has been injured after a tree fell on a bus stop.

A type of seasonal cyclone in the Hawaiian Islands, called Kona low, swept through the state late Monday into Tuesday. The storm first reached Oahu, battering the island for hours and causing multiple power outages and flooding before heading towards Lanai and Molokai. 

In Maui (population 150 000), Kona caused island-wide power outage after lightning hit the electrical system, causing damage to electrical equipment. The storm also downed trees and power lines in various areas and caused flash flooding, forcing authorities to warn motorists to stay off the roads until the storm subsides. Maui Electric said Tuesday afternoon their crews have restored power to 98% of their customers.

"We really worked hard to restore critical infrastructure. In this kind of situation, it’s really important for us to get the hospital, airport, police, and county emergency operations center back online quickly, so that was done by 6:30 this morning [Tuesday]," said Sharon Suzuki of Maui Electric Co.

"Restoring power to the remaining customers once our critical infrastructure was back is kind of delicate, because we have to make sure we constantly balance customer usage, or demand for electricity, with what’s available in terms of generation. So it does take time and we want to make sure that we don’t inadvertently drop customers again, and maintain system stability when we do that," Suzuki added.

According to KHON2, the power outage caused a sewage spill at the Wailuku Pump Station off of Kahului Beach Road in Wailuk where approximately 151 000 l (40 000 gallons) of wastewater flowed over a dirt access road and into the ocean. The spill site was cleaned and disinfected, bacteriological tests were conducted, and warning signs were posted.

Kona storms (also called Kona lows) are a type of seasonal cyclone in the Hawaiian Islands, usually formed in the winter from winds coming from the westerly "kona" (normally leeward) direction. 

They are mainly cold core cyclones, which places them in the extratropical cyclone rather than the subtropical cyclone category.

Hawaii typically experiences two to three annually, which can affect the state for a week or more. Among their hazards are heavy rain, hailstorms, flash floods and their associated landslides, high elevation snow, high winds which result in large surf and swells, and waterspouts.

Storms like this will bring significant rain to the islands through next April, during Hawaii's wet season, forecasters warn.

Featured image: Power outage repairs - Maui, Hawaii on October 24, 2017. Credit: Maui Electric

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