Sunday | June 25, 2017
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Big Islanders pick up pieces after pummeling

Storm-strength winds snapped trees and power poles across the Big Island, but Iselle appeared to do little to dampen the resolve of isle residents on the first day of recovery.

As they emerged from their homes Friday morning, many began rolling up their sleeves to clear their streets and driveways, while providing a helping hand to their neighbors.

“This is all 15th Street work,” said Ty Armitase, as he pointed down his road in Hawaiian Paradise Park.

Following the arrival of Iselle, which made landfall as a tropical storm late Thursday, the street became covered in fallen albizia trees.

“It was like firecrackers,” he said, describing the sound of trees snapping one after another.

Armitase said he and his neighbors began to clear the road with their own equipment rather than wait for help.

As of noon Friday, no work crews had yet to make it to his area of the private subdivision.

And there was still work left to be done.

Power poles snapped by falling trees left utility lines crossing driveways, and several residents said they were leaving them in place rather than test their luck.

Sonny Dukes said he saw a similar situation in Hawaiian Shores.

There, residents also put their chainsaws to use to clear roadways but some trees proved to be a job too big, he said.

“It looks like a war zone,” Dukes said.

“That’s the one thing is people here will help each other,” he later added. “They see a problem, they will try to help.”

Likely complicating the situation is the mix of private and public roads some subdivisions have, making it unclear who has jurisdiction. Large trees also covered major routes, such as the Pahoa-Kapoho Road, which kept county crews busy.

Dukes said his neighborhood association also had another major problem to deal with after a water line broke.

Power remained an issue and in some areas residents said they weren’t expecting it to come back anytime soon.

Dukes said he lost power at 3 p.m. Thursday. Twenty-four hours later, he said he has not seen a repair crew.

Looking at the snapped power pole leaning against the fence of an HPP resident’s house, Petra Marcus estimated it would take more than a few days.

“I have a feeling the power is going to be out for a long time,” she said.

Elsewhere, residents gathered outside closed beach parks to see what damage Iselle brought to the shore.

In Hilo, the shoreline damage was minimal and some body boarders took advantage of the remaining high surf.

Lifeguard Paul Kealoha said he was busy at times turning people away from Richardson Ocean Park. He pointed to hanging branches from trees as signs of potential danger.

“We had parades and parades and parades of people” driving by, Kealoha said.

Like the body boarders, Mening Sarme saw an opportunity following the storm.

The net fishermen said he was taking advantage of the muddy waters in Hilo Bay to sneak up on his catch.

“It’s the one time I can catch them, when the water is dirty,” said Sarme, 78. “It’s a trick.

“I’m going to catch plenny right now.”

In downtown Hilo, businesses left their windows boarded while posting handwritten signs announcing they are open.

Stan Lawrence, owner of Orchidland Surfboards, said it didn’t make much sense to take the boards down knowing Hurricane Julio, expected to follow a path north of the island, remained a wild card.

“We figure we might as well keep it up until we know Julio does what he’s supposed to do,” he said.

Email Tom Callis at


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