Office of Emergency services helping in wake of storms

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Governor Jerry Brown has dispatched experts from the Office of Emergency Services and the California National Guard to help with the response to hurricanes Iselle and Julio.

Governor Jerry Brown has dispatched experts from the Office of Emergency Services and the California National Guard to help with the response to hurricanes Iselle and Julio. They'll spend the next four weeks there helping with logistics.

Iselle has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, but Live Doppler 7 HD shows Julio right on her heels and expected to pass north of the islands by Monday.

The good news is Hurricane Julio may have only a minimal effect on Hawaii at this point. As for Iselle, it's winding down. There have been power outages, roof damage and downed trees, but so far there have been no major injuries.

Many Bay Area residents got out of Hawaii as fast as they could to beat Tropical Storm Iselle, at least those who were lucky enough to get a flight.

The Singh family of San Ramon cut their vacation short by two days. "Because of the tropical storm we were scared because they were predicting the landfalls and high winds so we didn't want to take a chance and we said it was better to be back home and be safe," Garina Singh said.

FEMA's Regional Response Coordination Center in Oakland is up and running. Workers have been glued to their computer screens and monitors displaying satellite images of Hawaii. Half the people in the room are FEMA workers, the rest represent other federal entities, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, the US Coast Guard and the US Department of Energy.

All are communicating with their crews on the ground to deliver supplies and deploy help as needed. "They are just starting to do their damage assessments. Their local damage assessments so the state and the counties will get their aerial assets in the air, they'll fly over, they'll get people out on the ground to see where the debris is, how many trees are down, what's the power situation," FEMA acting regional administrator Karen Armes said.

Despite the damage Iselle has left behind, Hawaii residents are relieved. Hurricane Julio, once expected to hit the islands, is now veering north.

Hilo resident Rich Paiva says the ground is well-saturated and says another hurricane likely would have led to big problems. "There's a lot of water coming from the mountain because there's a lot of rain up there right now so the rivers are running pretty strong," Paiva said.

The Big Island got the worst of Tropical Storm Iselle. Right now, farmers there are out navigating flooded roads, assessing the damage to crops.

While in Honolulu, tourists are back out on the streets and surfers are back in the ocean.

Tropical Storm Iselle prompts flight cancellations to Hawaii

Several flights to Hawaii have been cancelled in the wake of the storms. As a result, some local families have had to cut their vacations short out of fear that they would be trapped by the storm.

Most flights are on schedule Friday, but some travelers did not want to risk it and came home from their Hawaiian vacations early.

"We were supposed to go the Big Island and took a detour and came back to San Francisco," Aj Singh said.

The Singh family from San Ramon is back from their Hawaiian vacation two days early and said Tropical Storm Iselle forced them to cut the trip short. "We just wanted to be safe and back home," Singh said.

They booked a flight from Honolulu to San Francisco International Airport to try and beat the bad weather. Suhana Singh, 10, admits the shorter vacation meant she wasn't able to do everything she was looking forward to. "I wanted to go on a helicopter tour in Kona and I wanted to actually swim with dolphins."

"We were going to show her the lava rock and all that, but because of the tropical storm we were scared and they were predicting the landfalls and high winds, so we didn't want to take a chance," Garina Singh said.

Tropical Storm Iselle started grounding some flights Thursday. Since then, eight have been cancelled in and out of San Francisco International Airport. This includes four arrivals Friday morning from Honolulu, Maui and Kona.

At Mineta San Jose International Airport, one Alaska Airlines flight to Kaui was cancelled and a departure to Maui was delayed more than two hours.

Changman Park and his sons from Los Altos are a few of the lucky ones to get on a plane that took off from the Honolulu Airport.

"You could kind of hear the people at the airport getting kind of stressed out. Parents were like, I want to get out of here," Sungmin Park said.

Some passengers there were forced to make last minute changes.

One flight to Los Angeles actually left five hours ahead of schedule to get travelers out of town before Tropical Storm Iselle stormed in.

Several carriers are waving fees for people who have to make changes or cancellations to their flights. Those include, United Airlines, Hawaiaan, Alaska and Delta.

Iselle brings heavy rains, strong winds to Hawaii

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.

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.

This photo was taken by ABC7 News meteorologist Sandhya Patel in Oahu of the beautiful weather before the hurricanes hit the islands.

"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.

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.

ABC7 News staff and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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