Weather wallops West Hawaii: Home struck by lightning, downed trees reported amid storm

  • Two large trees were taken down during the heavy rain and thunderstorm Sunday in the Keopu area of Holualoa. (Fern Gavelek/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Lightning appears to strike the ground near Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport on Sunday. (Zachary Hart/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • Lightning strikes in two places off the Kona Coast at 7:29:11 p.m. Sunday amid heavy rain and thunderstorms. (Kirk Shorte, Kirk Shorte Photography LLC/Special to West Hawaii Today)
  • A thunderstorm with high winds toppled five shade houses and damaged some plants at a farm in Kealakekua in the early morning hours of Monday. (Ken Love/Special to West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Lora Robertson and her husband, Dale, were home when lightning struck their home on Kaloko Drive this past weekend.

“We just sat there hanging on to each other hoping it wouldn’t crash into the house,” Robertson recalled Monday.


Hawaii Island was terrorized by a thunderstorm Sunday evening. According to the National Weather Service, the storm was triggered by low-level moisture combined with a strong upper-level disturbance that produced widespread slow-moving heavy rain and thunderstorms.

A flash flood watch remained posted through Monday afternoon.

The lightning started hitting Robertson’s home around 7:30 p.m. She said it hit somewhere on the house and there was a huge flash.

“I thought a transformer blew, but it blew out the main breaker,” she said. “It blew the panel right off the main breaker.”

The lightning struck the house several times till about 8 p.m.

The strikes blew out the refrigerator, a brand new washing machine, microwave, plug-in circuits and the landline. Robertson said their computer and TV survived because they were connected to surge protectors.

“We had night lights and they blew out and shattered,” she added.

On Monday, the couple spent the day replacing utilities and restoring power.

“We’ve been hit before about 10 years ago, but not this bad,” Robertson said. “I’m thankful it didn’t crash through the house.”

High winds also impacted properties in West Hawaii. Ken Love, executive director of Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, has a farm in Kealakekua. He said five shade houses came down and a few plants were damaged during the early morning hours of Monday.

Later in the day, Love had friends over helping him get the shade houses back up.

“The framing was down and twisted,” he said. “It was easier to take everything apart and start over.”

Love said the wind was at its worst at about 1:30 a.m. Cost to repair the framing is about $200.

“In the 30-some years I’ve been here I haven’t seen the Kona winds like this,” he said. “At least my house is still standing.”

Residents also reported fallen trees as a result of the storm. Holualoa resident Fern Gavelek said two trees in the Keopu area of Holualoa were uprooted.

Gavelek added her neighborhood received 3.2 inches of rain during the storm with a brief power outage as well as an overnight cable outage.

Hawaii Police Maj. Robert Wagner said police received reports of downed trees and lights out at intersections. Video posted on Facebook showed a large tree covering the makai lane of Henry Street near Palani Road.

NWS Forecaster Peter Donaldson said around 6 p.m., as the thunderstorm moved on shore, wind speeds of 28 knots (32 mph) and gusts to about 38 knots (43 mph) were recorded at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport.


“We had a lot of rain and a lot of thunder and there were some unusual winds because of the fact we had the thunderstorms and thunderstorms produce their own winds,” Donaldson said.

Rain totals for the past 24 hours as of Monday morning were Honokaa at 5.8 inches, Kealakomo at 2.37, Kona International Airport at 1.71 and Kahua Ranch in North Kohala received 3.83 inches.

  1. areapolice February 20, 2018 5:03 am Reply

    How can it be in the Keopu area in Holualoa. That’s like stupid. Holualoa on Mamalahoa is from Hualalai garage until 100 yards past the Imin center. Holualoa goes from mountain to the sea and not from north to south. People look at your Tax map key if you not sure where you live. Don’t go by your mailing address, because Holualoa post office handles your mail. Da

    1. bluemoki February 20, 2018 10:58 am Reply

      Most people refer to the area as Holualoa, and they don’t usually go by the ahupua’a name for where they live. Just because its not within the actual town of Holualoa doesn’t really mean anything.

  2. LimeyinHi February 20, 2018 8:23 am Reply

    ‘The computer and TV survived because they were connected to surge protectors.’ Yeah right. If the lightening can blow the panel off the main breaker box, don’t expect a ‘surge protector’ to do anything against lightening. The best advise is to unplug everything and pull the plugs well away from the sockets. Also disconnect the cable lines and telephone, high voltage can rip through those too. Also does anybody else see ‘Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport’ as a ridiculous title for our airport?

    1. Buds4All February 20, 2018 8:31 am Reply

      I think this Island has more to worry about than the name of the airport. Let’s start with the crooked politicians and Government Employees!

    2. NevahHappen February 20, 2018 12:22 pm Reply

      Also disconnect the cable lines and telephone,

      How many people will go out in the rain to find where these thing enter the house? Fiddling with external wiring during a thunderstorm may not be advisable.

      Maybe inside the house, at each device, it that is what you meant.

  3. Buds4All February 20, 2018 8:26 am Reply

    “The lightning struck the house several times till about 8 p.m.” This is the rarest of rare….lightening hitting the same spot twice!

    1. NevahHappen February 20, 2018 12:19 pm Reply

      What was cool, Sunday afternoon watching the lightning show over the ocean. Big bolts hitting the water. Saw one really fat bolt strike, and with in a second or so, another followed it.

      What was weird was the visible track of the next bolt followed the same path, same shape.. Guess the ionized channel the first bolt created was irresistible to another.

      1. Buds4All February 20, 2018 12:31 pm Reply

        I believe the Grunwald Winstein equation may come into play here. However the odds are unreal.

  4. Buds4All February 20, 2018 10:49 am Reply

    Was the “TV” taken to Kona Community TV and Audio repair to confirm there were no life threatening issues?

  5. Kaipo Wall February 20, 2018 11:00 am Reply

    When it gets like this , unplug everything . Takes a few minutes , saves lots of money .

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