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Tourists back to paradise as Hawaii area struggles

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 10, 2014 at 1:28 am •  Published: August 10, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) — His generator whirring at top speed, Gene Lamkin used rain captured from Tropical Storm Iselle to wash his hair as he and thousands of others in a rural swath of the Big Island remained in the dark and unable to traverse roads blocked by toppled trees. It was a far cry from the way tourists in popular parts of Hawaii spent their Saturday — sunbathing, kayaking and otherwise back to paradise despite an overcast sky.

"It's like camping right now," Lamkin said from a cellphone he charged using a generator after his electricity failed at 8:30 p.m. Thursday. "We're using water from our catchment system to bathe ourselves, shampoo our hair — trying to remain in a civilized manner."

Lamkin knows life in the isolated, jungle-like Puna region, where unpaved roads of volcanic rock are not maintained by the county, means being prepared for the worst. The region, home to about 40,000 people, has spent a day and a half without electricity as Hurricane Julio lingered hundreds of miles off the coast.

"Those that didn't prepare are going to be in dire straits," he said. "We invested in a generator years ago, but this is the first time we've had to use it at a full-time capacity. We always have our shelves stocked with food and water."

At 8 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time, the National Weather Service downgraded Hurricane Julio to a Category 1, the lowest level. Julio's winds have weakened to about 90 mph, said Sam Houston, a forecaster with the weather service in Honolulu. Julio was expected to pass roughly 250 miles northeast of Maui early Sunday and linger near the state through Sunday night, the weather service said.

Iselle brought heavy rain and violent wind early Friday when it made landfall over the southeastern part of the island. In the storm's wake, Andrew Fujimura and others armed with chain saws spent Saturday hacking at trees blocking roads or helping neighbors patch up damaged roofs.

"The government road is unpassable and probably will be for a week or two," he said.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Director Darryl Oliveira worries there could be injured people rescuers can't reach.

"We're hopeful even with the damage, we don't have casualties that are unaccounted for," he said.

On the island of Kauai, rescuers found the body Saturday of a 19-year-old woman believed to have been swept away in a stream while hiking Friday in a closed state park during a tropical storm warning.

The mostly agricultural Puna region is as big as the island of Oahu. Although it's quickly growing because of affordable property, it's nowhere near as populated as the tourist destination home to Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor.

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