More Powerful Than Expected: Tropical Storm Flossie Leaves Hawai’i Reeling



Tropical Storm Flossie slowly exited the Hawaiian Islands on Tuesday, after the storm whipped the state with intense rain, heavy wind, thunder and lighting on Monday. The storm left widespread power outages its wake, mainly from damage to power lines from wind and thunderstorms.

The National Weather Service downgraded Flossie to a tropical depression Monday night, but is keeping a flash flood watch in effect statewide until Tuesday night. Kirk Caldwell, the mayor of Honolulu said that even though the storm was weakening, “we need to take it seriously.”

According to a University of Hawaii study earlier this year, the ocean around Hawaii will experience fewer, but stronger, tropical storms as the oceans get warmer. Unfortunately, those storms will also have longer tracks, and according to climate models, more of those tracks will lead to Hawaii.

Though it barely missed a direct hit on the Big Island, it did knock down trees on Monday afternoon. The storm then headed straight for Maui, and on Tuesday moved across Oahu and then Kauai.

At times, the rain fell at a rate of 4 inches per hour — the tropical storm brought 6 inches of rain on the Big Island, and 2 inches on other islands. The storm also brought the possibility of mudslides in the mountains, and dangerously high surf to the coasts. Schools and courts were closed after Governor Neil Abercrombie declared a state of emergency on Sunday, just before the storm hit the Big Island. State officials urged tourists to cancel all beach trips until further notice, while airlines canceled or delayed many flights and three ports on Maui and the Big Island were closed.

Over the weekend, residents prepared for the storm, while the state opened shelters for those who did not want to stay in their homes. Stores ran low on essentials like bottled water.

Hawai’i is dependent on shipments from the mainland for many goods, especially fuel to power homes, businesses, and vehicles. Three-fourths of the state’s power is generated by petroleum-fired power plants – this leaves the state vulnerable not only to the price on imported power, but also to downed power lines caused by storms like Flossie.

One solution is to get more of the state’s power from renewable sources found in Hawaii that do not require as much energy infrastructure. Last week, SolarCity announced that it would install 12.6 megawatts of solar power capacity at Hawaii military bases. Distributed rooftop solar systems allow homes to generate their own power, a helpful feature when the storms like Flossie cause power outages.