* Iselle weakens to tropical storm from hurricane
* Some 2,000 people head to shelters; 23,000 without power
* Stronger Julio makes it way toward islands
(Adds 23,000 people without power, governor's comments)
By Ken Wills
KAPAAU, Hawaii, Aug 8 Tropical Storm Iselle
pummeled the Hawaiian Islands with high winds and heavy rain on
Friday, forcing hundreds to seek shelter and knocking out power
to 23,000 people as residents kept a wary eye on an even more
powerful storm headed their way.
Iselle weakened into a tropical storm before reaching Hawaii
and officials said it was blunted to some extent by the state's
mountainous Big Island, though high winds and heavy rain were
still expected to lash smaller islands in the chain.
"The fact that the storm appears a bit benign at the moment
is due to the fact that it hit the Big Island. This is not
Kansas, this is not Florida," Governor Neil Abercrombie told a
"Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are formidable topographical
features, and the storm smacked into these great volcanic
mountains and (that) helped to break it apart, but the wind and
rain part of it are still moving," he said. "We are going to get
hit with huge amounts of rain coming down and gusting winds that
can put debris out there."
As Iselle passed over the Big Island with winds up to 50
miles per hour and pummeled eastern areas from Puna to Hilo with
heavy rains, some 2,000 people hunkered down in evacuation
shelters across the state.
Another 23,000 people were left without power on the Big
Island and Maui, according to utility companies, and the
National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings for the
entire Big Island as well as the windward side of Oahu, where
forecasters predicted heavy rain in windward areas. All ports
Abercrombie said that even as the eye of the storm moved
south past the Big Island, a broader cone of wind and rain could
still affect other islands, warning residents: "Do not be fooled
by the fact that there may appear to be a lull right now."
There were no reports of major injuries from Iselle, but
residents who believed the worst had passed were left still
bracing for Hurricane Julio, tracking right in her wake.
'NOW THERE'S JULIO'
Julio, which was downgraded to a Category 2 storm on Friday,
was barreling toward the islands at about 16 miles per hour,
carrying maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour (169
kph), and expected to affect the islands as early as Sunday.
"It's raining hard here, but I guess I can expect that the
worst of Iselle is over. Now there's Julio to worry about," said
Pepeekeo resident Rae Miyashiro, who experienced power outages
overnight but was otherwise unscathed.
Prediction models showed Julio weakening still further as it
nears Hawaii, and officials said its latest model showed it
would track about 150 miles (240 km) north of the archipelago
early on Sunday.
"Julio will be passing over cooler waters compared to Iselle
and is forecast to weaken to a tropical storm before nearing
Hawaii waters," Dan Kottlowski of AccuWeather said. "Rainfall
could still be locally heavy, especially in the higher terrain
as a result of the tropical flow of moisture."
But even if the storm veers away from the Hawaiian Islands,
forecasters said, it could still bring high winds and
considerable amounts of rain.
In anticipation of the rare back-to-back storms, Hawaii
residents have scrambled to stock up on supplies. Abercrombie
signed an emergency proclamation freeing up funds and resources,
and authorities advised residents to prepare seven-day disaster
supply kits and cautioned them against driving except in an
Hawaii's schools and many stores and offices were closed on
Friday, but authorities planned to keep airports open so planes
could land in an emergency, although some airlines had canceled
flights, officials said.
Power was out at the Olinda Water Treatment plant in a rural
area of Maui, and officials told some 700 water customers to
conserve water, County of Maui spokesman Rod Antone said.
(Additional reporting by Malia Mattoch McManus in Honolulu and
Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles, Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by
Sandra Maler, Bill Trott and Bernard Orr)