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NEWS FLASH - April 2, 2011 6:50 a.m. HST

U.S. Marshals Arrest 61 Fugitives on Maui

A U.S. Marshals task force arrested 61 fugitives and cleared 74 outstanding warrants during a week-long warrants sweep this week on Maui.

Those arrested were wanted for various crimes including drug, sex and other violent crime offenses. The task force was also involved in last week’s arrest of former Maui police officer Lewis Gamble on charges of sexual assault, impersonating a law enforcement officer, false reporting and kidnapping. He was released on $250,000 bail, the marshals service said.

The U.S. Marshals Service Hawaii Fugitive Task Force is made up of deputy marshals, state deputy sheriffs, Maui police, Big Island police, Kauai police, Honolulu police, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Marshals Service completed a sweep on the Big Island in February, although details of that effort were not immediately available. The task force is planning a sex offender compliance sweep later this year on Oahu.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the task force arrested more than 700 federal and state fugitives in Hawaii.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 7:55 p.m. HST

Maui Chamber Offers $1,000 for July 4th Artwork

Reaching out to the island art community, the Maui Chamber of Commerce and its West Side Committee are launching an art contest for artwork to be used for official T-shirts and promotional materials for
Maui¹s Fourth of July fireworks celebration. The winning artist will receive $1000 for use of the artwork.

The contest is the latest addition to Fourth of July festivities and a color filled fireworks display in Lahaina. The contest is sponsored by the Maui Chamber of Commerce, through a community campaign to raise $50,000 for the
pyrotechnics and other surprises.

"This is a community event that draws people from across the island and we are hoping the entire art community, especially artists from West Maui, will embrace this opportunity," Pamela Tumpap, Chamber president said.

"The contest is open to all ages and all artists, whether they draw, color, paint, or create their works of art on a computer," she said. As the artwork is primarily for the 2011 official event T-shirt, designs should work well for T-shirt printing. "Many visitors and residents enjoy collecting these T-shirts," Tumpap noted. "It is a fun way to highlight
and share Maui's wonderful artists with the community and visitors and to make this July 4th memorable for years to come."

The contest runs from April 11 to Friday, May 20 at 4:30 p.m. Entries need to be submitted via e-mail to info@mauichamber.com. Entries should include the subject line "4th of July Artwork" with the art submitted in jpeg format suitable for use in printing. Contestants can use as many as four-colors in their designs for printing on white T-shirts. Members of the Maui chamber will be asked to judge the entries and vote for their choice in an Internet survey.

As entries come in, they will be displayed on the Chamber¹s web site with recognition of the artist. In addition to the prize money, the artist will be invited to meet the public at the July 4th celebration.

Plans call for the original artwork to be auctioned off via an online auction to benefit the 2012 Annual 4th of July Fireworks in Lahaina event.

For more information on contributing go to http://youtube.com and type in Support Maui's 4th fireworks or call the Maui Chamber of Commerce at 808-244-0081.

(Report Provided by Maui Communicators)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 7:35 p.m. HST

MEDB Awards $135,000 in Ke Alahele Grants

KIHEI, Maui, Hawaii – This week, Maui Economic Development Board announced the recipients of the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund. A total of 30 projects funded in Maui County schools and organizations have received over $135,000 in grant funds during the 2010-2011 school year, the largest amount awarded in the grant program’s history to date.

Grant funds have gone to support a variety of programs and curriculum that encourage hands-on experiences and learning in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Funds have enabled students to compete in national and state robotics tournaments, helped offset program and travel expenses for STEM-related competitions on the U.S. mainland and in Hawaii, and helped to procure needed equipment for various projects in biology, aquaponics, geography, astrology, biotechnology, and renewable energy.

Grantees are:

Molokai High School received a $4,507 grant for 20 students to participate in an innovative, science-based curriculum at a number of culturally significant locations on Molokai.

Iao School received a $4,219 grant to purchase aquaponic equipment and supplies that 300 7th graders will build and maintain.

Kilohana Elementary School received a $5,000 grant to purchase computer and GPS equipment to teach Special Education students about spatial concepts, pattern recognition and map analysis through geographic study.

Maui Waena Intermediate School received a $5,000 grant for Creative Media Class to participate in the Student Television Network Convention held in Florida in March.

Hawaii State Science Olympiad received a $5,000 grant to assist the Maui County Science Initiative in establishing STEM clubs county-wide.

Maui Waena Intermediate School received a $5,000 grant to procure supplies and offset travel expenses to Botball state competition on Oahu.

Maui Girls 4-H Club received a $2,125 grant to help fund equipment and supplies for members to compete in the First Lego League tournament on Oahu.

Carden Academy Middle School received a $2,460 grant to purchase equipment and supplies for school’s first robotics club.

Maui High School received a $4,775 grant to purchase robotics parts and supplies and for travel expenses to Oahu Regional VEX tournament.

H.P. Baldwin High School received a $5,000 grant for robotics parts and supplies and to offset travel expenses to Oahu Regional VEX tournament.

Molokai High School received a $4,662 grant to help establish a robotics program and for travel expenses to attend the Maui Regional VEX tournament.

Molokai Complex received a $5,000 grant for the expansion of the Molokai Complex’s Robotics program and for travel to the Maui Regional First Lego League competition.

Iao School received a $4,995 grant for funding for robotics equipment, supplies, and travel expenses for the VEX World Competition, in Dallas TX.

H.P. Baldwin High School received a $5,000 grant to offset cost of supplies and travel to compete in the FIRST Robotics competitions in San Diego, CA and Oahu.

King Kekaulike High School received a $4,880 grant for travel expenses to compete in Hawaii Regional FIRST Tournament being held on Oahu, Hawaii.

Pomaikai Elementary School received a $4,944 grant for a beach and marine monitoring project at Waihee shoreline region.

Molokai High School received a $2,618 grant to fund an aquaponics project for special needs community-based instruction program.

Kilohana Elementary School received a $4,950 grant for 28 5th and 6th graders to investigate unique habitat on Molokai and to share experiences with international penpals.

Alaka`ina Foundation received a $4,830 grant to fund equipment for the Digital Bus mobile laboratory.

Dirt Devils 4-H Leader received a $5,000 grant for a soil conservation awareness project and to help offset competition expenses.

Maui 4-H Tech Connect Fair received a $4,823 grant to promote STEM careers through hands-on, team-based experiences for 50 4-H members and 20 youth mentors.

Makawao Elementary School received a $5,000 grant to purchase equipment and supplies for Orbital Research Tracking Projects (METEOR).

Department of Education, County of Maui received a $5,000 grant for partial funding of Discovery Education, a tool to integrate technology, science and multimedia.

King Kekaulike High School received a $4,719 grant to support advancing students use of technology through inquiry-based lab experiments.

Fun, 2, 3 Pre-School in Keokea (Kula) received a $2,796 grant for equipment and supplies for experiential play-based learning of biological processes and the importance of technology.

Lahainaluna High School received a $5,000 grant to support a biotechnology lab for 60+ students to clone, sequence and analyze genes from native Hawaiian plants.

Kaunakakai Elementary School received a $5,000 grant to offset travel expenses for 12 University of Hawaii-Manoa graduate students and 4 faculty members to mentor 300 students at Molokai schools.

Maui High School received a $4,500 grant to offset travel expenses to participate in the Student Television Network Convention and On-site Competition held in Orlando, FL in March.

Maui High School received a $5,000 grant to help stage a competition that aims to provide 120 students with opportunities to display their knowledge in graphics and digital media.

Lahainaluna High School received a $5,000 grant for the purchase of 7 digital cameras with lenses and one telephoto lens for the use of 165 students in the digital media lab.

In addition, the Ke Alahele Education Fund supported student internships at Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) and the Maui High Performance Computer Center (MHPCC).

Since 2006, the MEDB Ke Alahele Education Fund has helped to stimulate community investment in broadening career pathways for Maui County residents.

“Now more than ever, we need to invest in our youth,” said Jeanne Skog, president of Maui Economic Development Board. “By helping to provide learning opportunities that empower our youth, our hope is that they will build a strong foundation with the STEM skills needed to meet the demands of our 21st century workforce.”

For more information on the Ke Alahele Education Fund, contact Maui Economic Development Board, Inc. at 808-875-2300 or visit www.medb.org.

The Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established in 1982 with a focus on diversifying Maui's economy. Its mission is to provide leadership and vision in our community for the responsible design and development of a strong, sustainable and diversified economy for Maui County. MEDB’s programs—which are founded on a respect for our culture and precious environment—work to add diversity to our economic base, educate and train our residents for the resulting new career pathways, and build consensus in addressing our community’s challenges and opportunities.

(Report Provided by the Maui Economic Development Board)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 7:15 p.m. HST

HTA Updates Local Impact of Japan Disasters

As the situation in Japan continues to evolve, the Hawai'i Tourism Authority is actively monitoring the impact it is having on our visitor industry. The following are some updates from the week of March 28:

• We are projecting an 18.3 percent decline in arrivals from Japan for the month of March, which is slightly lower than our initial projection of a 25 percent drop following the events on March 11.

• Early this week, Japan Airlines announced that it would temporarily reduce flights from Narita to Honolulu in April. We are hopeful that this will only be a short-term consolidation of flights and that regular scheduled service will resume when appropriate. JAL also announced this week that it has emerged from bankruptcy. This is great news and we wish them well.

• More encouraging news came from Hawaiian Airlines yesterday, they announced their commitment to Japan with plans to launch direct service to Osaka in July and no reduction in service from Tokyo. It is important to Hawai'i that our airlines partners remain healthy and viable, and we are committed to working with them to drive demand and increase air seats to our islands.

• David Uchiyama, HTA Vice President of Brand Management, returned earlier this week from the Routes Asia 2011 Conference in Korea. While there, he met with numerous airline executives to discuss the development of new air service routes, increased service and protecting existing airlift. The HTA will continue to develop these relationships and work on increasing flights from the Asia region.

• In the short-term, the HTA, along with our marketing contractors and industry partners will be implementing programs to increase travel to Hawai'i from North America, Oceania, China and Korea to offset the shortfall from Japan.

The HTA continues to stand in unity with the people of Japan during this difficult time. We encourage you to join us and our industry partners in support of the "Aloha for Japan" fundraising efforts. Please consider making a direct monetary donation or by participating in one of the many planned events over the next few weeks. For more details visit: www.alohaforjapan.com

(Report Provided by The Hawai'i Tourism Authority)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 5:25 p.m. HST

Veteran MPD Officer Arrested on Family Abuse Charge

Maui Police report that a veteran officer has been arrested on charges of abusing a family member.

According to a report, Oscar MARTIN DEL CAMPO (43 yrs), a 19-year veteran of the Maui Police Department, was placed under arrest for physically abusing a family member.

The arrest was made last night shortly before 10 p.m. Bail was set at $1,000.00. The officer posted bail and is currently on leave.

MPD has not released the name of the victim, nor details on the victim's condition.


OFFICER ARRESTED -
Veteran Maui Police Office Officer Oscar Martin Del Campo was arrested Thursday on charges of abusing a family member. (MPD Photo)

(Report Provided by the Maui Police Department)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 4:05 p.m. HST

Corrosion Cuts Power to 3,000 MECO Customers

At about 2:00 PM today, approximately 3,000 customers in parts of Wailuku, Waihee, Waiehu and Kahakuloa lost power when an insulator bolt on a utility pole in Waiehu failed due to sea salt corrosion. Majority of the customers affected were brought back on-line at 2:30 PM and remaining customers were restored by 4:12 PM.

MECO apologizes for any inconvenience caused by this power outage.

(Report Provided by Maui Electric Company)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 3:45 p.m. HST

Maui Makani Classic is ON

WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii - The County of Maui is pleased to announce the return of a major windsurfing competition to our island's North Shore this year.

Starting in the fall Hookipa Park will host the Maui Makani Classic, the premiere event of the American Windsurfing Tour. The Classic is sponsored in part by the County through the Office of Economic Development and the Maui Visitor's Bureau.

"We are very pleased to help bring these sorts of sports events back to Maui because they have tremendous economic impact on the surrounding areas," said Mayor Alan Arakawa. "And we want to remind the world why Hookipa is considered the 'Mecca' of windsurfing. So I encourage people to come to Maui and to see the sport at its best."

"These are the types of events that we feel will benefit Maui County," said Brianne Savage, OED Sports and Entertainment Specialist. "They attract hundreds of competitors and fans from all over the world."

The Maui Makani Classic will be held during the best three days of surf and wind conditions between October 27th to November 1st.. Competing in the event are former world champions Robby Naish, Josh Stone, Kai Lenny and Kevin Pritchard.

Tour officials say they expect up to 100 competitors, some of whom have already registered for the event. To help with parking and traffic the AWT is planning to run off-site parking areas and shuttle services.

"We want this to run as smoothly as possible," said Sam Bittner, AWT Organizer. "We are very excited about coming back to Hookipa and thankful for all the help from Maui County."

"We look forward to once again hosting a windsurfing event on Maui," said Terryl Vencl, MVB Executive Director. "We know the windsurfers will be thrilled to be back."

For more information contact Brianne Savage at 270-7415 or Brianne.savage@co.maui.hi.us. You can also reach Sam Bittner at 280-4419 or log on to http://americanwindsurfingtour.com.

(Report Provided by the Maui County Office of Information)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 11:30 a.m. HST

Airport Parking Rates to Climb May 1

HONOLULU — The state Department of Transportation (DOT) advises air travelers of new parking rates at Hawaii airports statewide effective on Sunday, May 1, 2011. Daily parking rates will increase at the Honolulu International Airport by $2, from $13 to $15 per day, and at neighbor-island airports by $1, from $9 to $10 per day.

Revenues generated will help to offset capital costs of airport improvements under the New Day Work Project. “We understand that any parking rate increase will be difficult for air travelers, but this increase is necessary to continue modernizing our airports for the future,” said Dan Meisenzahl, DOT Spokesman. “The additional revenue will help to improve facilities at our airports statewide.” For more information on this New Day Work Project, please visit www.hawaiiairportsmodernization.com. Motorists picking up passengers will still be able to use a 15-minute grace period at all state airport parking facilities and airport cell phone lots, which provide motorists a nearby parking location in which to wait for arrivals.

(Report Provided by the State of Hawai'i, Department of Transportation)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 7:30 a.m. HST

High Surf Still Up Along North Shores

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has extended the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for NORTH FACING SHORES of MAUI COUNTY in effect until Noon today.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: Although the west northwest swell is slowly subsiding, it is still bringing advisory level surf along exposed north facing shores of the smaller islands.

Surf of 10 to 15 feet for exposed north facing shores will subside below advisory levels this afternoon.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

A high tide of approximately 1.8 feet is expected between 1:19 p.m. and 2:37 p.m. this afternoon.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 7:10 a.m. HST

Arakawa Aiming For RIF Through Attrition

WAILUKU - Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa hopes to reduce the number of county employees by about 7 percent through attrition by the end of his first year in office.

The Maui News reported Arakawa announced the goal at the Maui Chamber of Commerce's annual mayor's luncheon yesterday.

Arakawa says he doesn't expect county revenues to grow this year, yet he plans to increase spending on infrastructure, notably road repairs and water sources. He says spending on roads will "nearly double."

Arakawa also told the Maui County Council Budget and Finance Committee that cutting the county's work force would be a critical step to keeping soaring retirement and benefit costs under control.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - April 1, 2011 6:30 a.m. HST

DOH Suspects Another 12 Dengue Cases on O'ahu

The state Health Department is investigating 12 new cases of suspected dengue fever since a medical alert for the mosquito-borne viral illness was issued last week.

The possible cases are “scattered around the island,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist. “We’ve increased suspicion out there and that’s good.”

Dengue fever is found only in tropical or subtropical regions, but Park said she doesn’t think Hawaii is the source for the disease.

“We tend to think it’s not endemic,” she said. “For the most part the cases are from elsewhere.”

So far, only two cases have been confirmed.

The Pearl City woman who first got the disease was diagnosed by a doctor while visiting Wisconsin.

The Health Department announced March 24 that two confirmed and two unconfirmed cases of dengue fever surfaced in a Pearl City neighborhood — the first locally acquired cases in 10 years. These four cases involve three adult members of a family and their neighbor.

Physicians reported 20 suspected cases to the Department of Health since the medical alert. Eight of those were excluded either after tests came back negative or the doctor withdrew the case because of a different diagnosis.

But the potential for wider exposure is serious, Park said.

“It should be a wake-up call for people,” she said. “We could have another introduction of dengue. That’s what we regularly find.”

The department attempts to zero in on infected travelers who come to or return to Hawaii at the point they arrive, and educates them on staying indoors while they are sick.

The last Hawaii outbreak in 2001 sickened 153 people and was centered in Hana, Maui, with a few cases elsewhere on Maui and other islands.

Aside from the 2001 outbreak, the number of cases in the past decade has fluctuated from one to 14, but all have been imported cases in which the disease could be traced back to persons who brought the disease to Hawaii from outside the state.

Blood samples are tested on the mainland, both at commercial laboratories and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which can test for antibodies and the genetics of the mosquito to try to identify its origin.

“If we capture someone who is experiencing acute symptoms, (the genetic testing) can potentially identify the region where this came from,” Park said.

Medical providers received email alerts from the Health Department urging them to be on the lookout for possible cases of the disease. Symptoms include high fever, muscle aches, pain behind the eye and rash.

Pearl City residents have demanded to know exactly where the confirmed cases are, but health officials continue to withhold a specific location.

“We don’t want people to have a false sense of security,” department spokes­woman Jan­ice Okubo said.

Pearl City resident Jean Kubo said, “When they first mentioned Pearl City, we thought, ‘Oh my goodness.’”

Based on information from a TV news report, she believes the confirmed cases are not near her home or the route she walks. But she realized she must be vigilant since possible cases have been reported elsewhere.

“We’ve been walking our dogs at night, and I’ve been spraying myself,” she said. “I get mosquito bites often.”

In Hawaii the most common species of mosquito that transmits the disease is Aedes albopictus, which generally is active during the day and is not an effective transmitter.

Department workers have gone to the Pearl City neighborhood where the confirmed cases were located and have taken blood samples from several of the 70 residents. But they are not showing symptoms.

Those with the dengue virus sometimes have no symptoms.

The department is urging the public to be vigilant about removing standing water from around their homes to eliminate mosquito breeding sites.

“If everyone does their part to eliminate potential breeding sites, we can minimize the feeding potential. Then we’ll see this burn out sooner than later,” Park said. “If we don’t, we’re just feeding the fire. Basically, we just have a small fire that will go out eventually.”

Mosquitoes are the only transmitters of the disease, which cannot be contracted between humans.

Humans are the only hosts for the disease. Dogs and other animals are not.

Health officials advise people to cover up when going outside to avoid mosquito bites and to use a mosquito repellant containing DEET.

Park cautions DEET products should not be used on infants less than 2 months old; mosquito netting should be used instead.

There is no vaccine for the disease.

The University of Hawaii’s medical school and College of Natural Sciences received an $11 million grant to continue its research on dengue and other infectious diseases, including coming up with a vaccine for dengue.

Reach Leila Fujimori at lfujimori@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 31, 2011 4:20 p.m. HST

Appointments Now Available for State ID Cards at Maui Office

Wailuku – Governor Neil Abercrombie today announced that beginning Monday, April 4, 2011, Maui residents who want to apply for a State of Hawai'i identification card will be able to make an appointment.

State IDs applications are now offered in the Wailuku office from Monday thru Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“Currently, people have an average wait of about four hours to get their IDs. We hope that by going to an appointment schedule, it will alleviate some of the frustration experienced by those who aren’t able to get their IDs due to the wait,” said Governor’s Maui Representative Deidre Tegarden.

To make a State ID appointment, please call 243-5798 or make the appointment in person by stopping by the office.

The State ID office is located on the Basement Level on 2264 Aupuni Street in Wailuku. It is closed on Fridays and holidays.

(Report Provided by the Office of Governor Neil Abercrombie)

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NEWS FLASH - March 31, 2011 11:30 a.m. HST

Matson Hikes Fuel Surcharge to Highest Level Ever

Matson Navigation Co. said it will raise its fuel surcharge on shipments from the mainland to 43.5 percent one May 1, the highest level since it started imposing the charge more than 10 years ago.

The 8.5 percent hike is the third in three months for Matson, which said it is trying to keep pace with rapidly rising oil prices.

“When we announced our last increase in late February, fuel prices had just begun to spike because of the unprecedented unrest in the Middle East,” Dave Hoppes, senior vice president, said in a news release.

“Since then, the environment has failed to stabilize, causing the global fuel market to remain at near historic highs. Matson recognizes that fuel costs impact all businesses, as well as consumers. Unfortunately, transportation companies are especially hard hit, with fuel consumption an unavoidable and significant component of operating costs,” Hoppes said.

Crude oil futures rose $2.45 to $106.72 a barrel today on the New York Mercantile ?Exchange, the highest settlement since September 2008.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 31, 2011 11:10 a.m. HST

Mainland Investors Buy 9.9 Percent of A&B

Two mainland investment firms have combined to purchase a 9.9 percent stake in Honolulu-based Alexander & Baldwin Co., according to a regulatory filing today.

New York-based Pershing Square Capital Management LP, led by activist hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, bought an 8.6 percent stake and San Francisco-based Marcato Capital Management LLC, led by Richard McGuire, acquired a 1.3 percent stake.

The firms said in the filing that they believe A&B's shares "are undervalued and are an attractive investment."

The firms said they will hold discussions with management, the board and other stockholders and other parties concerning the business, assets, capitalization, financial condition, operations, governance, strategy and future plans of the company.

A&B's stock edged up 12 cents to $45.65 during the regular trading session on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares soared $4.55 to $50.25 in after-hours trading.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 31, 2011 7:30 a.m. HST

Waves Could Reach 15-20 Feet Along North Shores Today


1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has continued the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for NORTH FACING SHORES of MAUI COUNTY in effect until 6:00 a.m. Friday.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: The large west northwest swell will produce high surf along exposed north facing shores of the county.

Surf of 15 to 20 feet for exposed north facing shores is expected today.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

A high tide of approximately 1.8 feet is expected between 1:19 p.m. and 2:37 p.m. this afternoon. The next high tide of approximately 2.1 feet is expected between 1:01 a.m. and 2:19 a.m. tomorrow morning.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 31, 2011 6:40 a.m. HST

6.4 Quake Rumbles Under Tonga - No Damage, Injuries or Tsunami

NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga - A strong magnitude 6.4 earthquake has struck at sea northwest of Tonga in the South Pacific. There are no immediate reports of injuries or damage and no tsunami warning has been issued.

The U.S. Geological Survey says Thursday's quake was centered 272 miles northwest of the Tongan town of Neiafu at a depth of 14 miles.

Earthquakes are common in the South Pacific.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 30, 2011 8:10 p.m. HST

Kahului Man Charged With Stealing Knives from Macy's

A 32-year-old Kahului man remained in custody today for allegedly stealing five knives from Kahului Macy's and then pushing a security guard who tried to stop him.

Teodoro Ilar, who was charged with theft and harassment, was taken to Maui Community Correctional Center today with a $1,100 bail.

Police said Ilar put the knives, worth $347, in a backpack and left the store about 11:30 a.m. Monday. A security guard stopped him in the parking lot, but Ilar pushed him and fled, police said.

Officers arrested him nearby.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 30, 2011 7:50 p.m. HST

Haiku Man Denies Trying to Murder His Wife

A Haiku man pleaded not guilty today in Maui Circuit Court to trying to kill his wife, a Maui Police Department recruit, last month.

Michael Pacheco was charged in a grand jury indictment with second-degree attempted murder. He is being held at Maui Community Correctional Center on $750,000 bail.

Police said the attack began when Pacheco was arguing with his wife inside a home about 6:20 p.m. Feb. 25.

Lt. Wayne Ibarra said Pacheco got upset, held down his wife, and choked her with both hands. She broke free and locked herself in the bathroom, then broke the window to jump out. Pacheco "chased her down and tackled her" outside and punched her in the head, Ibarra said.

While on top of her, he held a knife to her and yelled that he would kill her, Ibarra said.

The woman took the knife away and a neighbor came to her aid, grabbing Pacheco and allowing the woman to run away. Ibarra said the woman went to the hospital for injuries to the head and neck and cuts to her hands from grabbing the knife.

Police arrested Pacheco that day and charged him with abuse of a family member and first-degree terroristic threatening. He was released that day after posting $6,000 bail.

Maui Prosecuting Attorney John Kim said after further investigation, the Prosecutor's Office decided to go with a higher charge. A grand jury returned an indictment charging Pacheco with attempted murder on March 18.

He was arrested yesterday when he appeared at District Court to answer to the abuse and terroristic threatening charges. He is scheduled to reappear in court on April 4.

Police said Pacheco's wife was in "field officer's training" at the time of the attack and has since returned to work.

Reach Rob Shikina at rshikina@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 30, 2011 6 p.m. HST

Wildman Withdraws from Second Circuit Judge Appointment

Honolulu – Joe Wildman today asked Governor Neil Abercrombie to withdraw his nomination for Judge of the Circuit Court of the Second Circuit (Maui County).

“I’m grateful for Governor Abercrombie giving me the opportunity to serve,” Mr. Wildman said. “However, because of an unresolved situation with my law firm, I have decided to withdraw my nomination to prevent any distraction for the Abercrombie Administration and disruption for my family.”

Governor Abercrombie accepted Mr. Wildman’s request and will make a new appointment for Circuit Court judge shortly.

“I’m sorry that Joe won’t be serving the people of Hawai'i as Judge of the Circuit Court,” Governor Abercrombie said. “There are other very qualified individuals recommended by the Judicial Selection Commission, and I will be making a selection soon.”

Circuit Court judges are appointed to 10-year terms by the Governor from a list of not less than four and not more than six nominees provided by the Judicial Selection Commission.

(Report Provided by the Office of Governor Neil Abercrombie)

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NEWS FLASH - March 30, 2011 5:55 p.m. HST

Mayor Sets Next 'County On Your Corner' for Saturday in Pukalani

WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii – Mayor Alan Arakawa's next "County on Your Corner" will be held on Saturday, April 2, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. outside of Pukalani Superette.

"It is important to connect with the community," says Arakawa. "'County on Your Corner,' which will typically be scheduled in a different location each month, is a good way for members of my cabinet and me to interact with community members on the issues that are of most interest to them."

Joining Arakawa at the this "County on Your Corner" event will be Councilmember Mike White, Water Supply Director Dave Taylor, Planning Director Will Spence, Managing Director Keith Regan, Mayor's Chief-of-Staff Herman Andaya, Mayor's Executive Assistant Mike Molina, as well as Public Works Deputy Director Rowena Dagdag-Andaya.

(Report Provided by the Maui County Office of Information)

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NEWS FLASH - March 30, 2011 11:50 a.m. HST

Governor Names First BOE Lineup Under Act 5


Honolulu – In another step forward to advance the state’s public school system, Governor Neil Abercrombie today announced his appointments to the new Board of Education (BOE). The board consists of nine members – three from O'ahu, three at-large, and one each from Hawai'i Island, Maui and Kaua'i.

“I was encouraged by the number of quality people who applied to serve on the BOE, all who were ready to commit themselves to a new day in education,” said Governor Abercrombie. “It was important for me to find the right balance of individuals who could bring their diverse experiences to the table. Education is one of my highest priorities. Hawai'i depends on the success of our public schools and these individuals have stepped up to take responsibility for increasing public confidence in our schools and fundamental change to improve outcomes for children and our community.”

Act 5, which was signed into law earlier this month, established legislation for the Governor to appoint BOE members. His appointments require confirmation by the state Senate.

The Governor’s appointees to the BOE are:

Maui: Wesley Lo is the Chief Executive Officer at Maui Memorial Medical Center. He previously worked as the Maui County Finance Director and the Chief Financial Officer of Maui Memorial Medical Center. His children attend Baldwin High School and Pomaikai Elementary. Lo’s wife is a counselor at Maui High School. His appointment is for a three-year term.

Hawaii: Brian DeLima is an Attorney in Private Practice. He is a former Hawai'i County council member. DeLima is a graduate of Hilo High School and in 1972 he served as the first student BOE member. His daughter, who has special needs, attends Hilo Intermediate School. DeLima’s appointment is for a two-year term.

Kauai: Nancy Budd is an Attorney in Private Practice. Budd is a member of the Kauai Planning and Action Alliance Public Education Action Team; she serves as Director and President of the Kaua`i District Parent Teacher Student Association; and is a reading tutor at Wilcox Elementary School. Budd’s daughter graduated from Kaua'i High School. Her appointment is for a one-year term.

O'ahu: Jim Williams is retired Administrator and CEO of the Hawaii Employer-Union Benefits Trust Fund (EUTF). Currently, he is the Vice-chair of Voyager Public Charter School, and previously served as President and CEO of Royal State Learning Foundation; Interim Director and President of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association; and teacher at Kauanakakai Elementary School and Moloka'i High School. Williams’ appointment is for a three-year term.

O'ahu: Charlene Cuaresma is the Associate Director of the Graduate Professional Access Program at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. She is also the Community Director of the Asian American Network for Cancer Awareness, Research and Training. Cuaresma, a Waipahu High School graduate, is active in many Filipino community initiatives. Cuaresma’s appointment is for a two-year term.

O'ahu: Cheryl Kauhane Lupenui is the Chief Executive Officer of the YWCA of Oahu. She has served on the boards of Hawai'i Tourism Authority’s Hawaiian Resource Advisory Board; the Center for Asian Pacific American Women; and Aloha United Way. Lupenui’s appointment is for a one-year term.

At-large: Keith Amemiya is the Executive Administrator and Secretary of the Board of Regents at the University of Hawai'i. He is the former Executive Director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association. Amemiya served on a number of boards including the Honolulu Firefighters Foundation, Aloha Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Susannah Wesley Community Center, and The Learning Coalition. His appointment is for a one-year term.

At-large: Kim Gennaula is a Philanthropy Director at Kapiolani Health Foundation. She is a former news anchor and previously worked as Communications Director for Liberty House and Sharper Image. Her two children attend Hokulani Elementary School, and she has been a member of an advisor board to the Superintendent. Gennaula’s appointment is for a two-year term.

At-large: Don Horner is Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of First Hawaiian Bank. In February, the Governor appointed him to fill the vacancy of the at-large position on the board. (http://hawaii.gov/gov/newsroom/press-releases/governor-abercrombie-selects-community-leader-for-the-board-of-education) The Governor has also appointed Horner as the new BOE Chairman.

BOE members oversee the Department of Education (DOE), which has a $1.7 billion operational budget. The DOE is one of the state’s largest organizations with more employees than the state’s five largest private sector employers combined.

Since signing Act 5 into law, the Governor’s office received more than 150 applications to the BOE. Governor Abercrombie’s nine appointments must be confirmed by state Senate’s Education Committee as well as the confirmation of the full Senate.

(Report Provided by the Office of Governor Neil Abercrombie)

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NEWS FLASH - March 30, 2011 6:40 a.m. HST

Waves Could Reach 20 Feet on North Shores Today

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has continued the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for NORTH FACING SHORES of MAUI and MOLOKAI in effect from noon today until 6:00 a.m. Friday.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: A low pressure system moving towards the Gulf of Alaska has sent a large west-northwest swell towards Hawaii. Large swell will build on the smaller islands today.

Surf of 15 to 20 feet for exposed north facing shores is expected today.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

A high tide of approximately 1.6 feet is expected between 1:47 p.m. and 3:05 p.m. this afternoon. The next high tide of approximately 2.1 feet is expected between 1:01 a.m. and 2:19 a.m. tomorrow morning.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 8:30 p.m. HST

One Marine Dies, Three Injured in O'ahu Helicopter Crash

One Marine died and three others were injured when a Marine Corps helicopter carrying four people crashed during an emergency landing in shallow water last night in Kaneohe Bay.

The helicopter, part of the Kaneohe-based Marine Heavy Helicopter squadron left the base about 7 p.m. for training and made a mayday call about 7:20 p.m., said 2nd Lt. Diann Olson, a spokeswoman for Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The Marines are investigating the cause of the crash and efforts are expected to begin today to recover the wreckage. The helicopter is on its side in the water.

Three crewmen were treated at Marine Corps Base Hawaii and then taken to the Queen's Medical Center last night. Search and rescue crews recovered the body of the fourth Marine from the helicopter.

Two of the injured Marines were in critical condition last night and one was reported in stable condition. The body of the deceased Marine was taken to Tripler Army Medical Center. His name will be released 24 hours after next of kin are notified, Olson said.

Federal firefighters, Honolulu firefighters, the Coast Guard, the base's Waterfront Operations and another CH-53 helicopter responded to the crash scene, about 2 miles from the base near the sandbar in Kaneohe Bay.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Angela Henderson said the Army aircraft spotted two people on top of the helicopter waving for help.

"Apparently there were some beacons or flares fired off," said fire Capt. Terry Seeling.

A Coast Guard C-130 airplane, a HH-65 Dolphin helicopter, and a 45-foot response boat from Sector Honolulu were on scene last night.

The Navy's Waterfront Operations placed an oil boom around the craft to contain any spills from spreading in the environment, but no fluids were seen leaking out.

Reach Rob Shikina at rshikina@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 6:10 p.m. HST

Governor Reacts to Updated Revenue Forecast, Decries 'Status Quo'

Honolulu – Governor Neil Abercrombie released the following statement regarding the updated Council on Revenues projections:

“Our administration has put forward a plan that will get us out of the immediate fiscal shortfall while moving Hawaii toward a New Day. We understand the challenges facing the state and we are being conservative as we work with the State Legislature to pass a budget that will get the job done.

“To meet the immediate shortfall over the next three months, we will enforce a 10 percent spending reduction for all departments. We will also use the Rainy Day, Hurricane Relief and special funds.

“For future years, the plan we put forward in February still stands. Our plan will add $1.3 billion to Hawaii's economy--creating jobs and building critical infrastructure like schools, clean energy projects, and public facilities. Our plan restores critical government functions to help local businesses and invest in education. The plan balances the budget by making changes to the tax code, labor savings, and spending cuts.

“The people will not tolerate the status quo. They want jobs, better schools, energy and food produced here.”

(Report Provided by the Office of Governor Neil Abercrombie)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 1:10 p.m. HST

State Bracing for Plummeting Post-Tsunami Visitor Forecast

Hawaii's economic forecasters are meeting to figure out how bad off the state is following a tsunami that resulted in a decline of Japanese tourists.

The Council on Revenues planned to create a revised projection Tuesday that will be used to shape Hawaii's budget deficit.

Earlier this month, the council's figures showed drops in tax revenue would increase the deficit to nearly $1 billion.

But that prediction came several hours before the tsunami that altered the state's economic and political landscape.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's administration has been estimating the state will face a $1.3 billion shortfall over the next two years.

A decline in Japanese vacation will reduce the amount of money spent and taxes collected, leading lawmakers to consider raising taxes and cutting government. Yesterday, Japan Airlines announced it was cutting flights to Hawaii by a third starting next month.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 11 a.m. HST

Visitor Spending Surpasses 'Banner Year' of 2007 - Again

HONOLULU – Total spending by visitors who came to Hawai‘i in February 2011 increased 18.7 percent ($159.7 million) from February 2010, to $1.013 billion. This was the second consecutive month that total visitor spending surpassed results from the banner year 2007 (total spending was $999.97 million in February 2007). Total visitor expenditures for the first two months of 2011 were $2.2 billion, an increase of 19.3 percent compared to year-to-date 2010, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority.

The growth in visitor spending for the month of February 2011 was due to higher average daily visitor spending (+5.7%), and an 11.7 percent increase in total arrivals to 593,018 visitors.

Total arrivals by air rose 11.8 percent from February 2010, to 578,634 visitors. Canada (+19.7%), U.S. West (+11.8%) and U.S. East (+10.9%) showed double-digit growth while arrivals from Japan increased 8.2 percent from last February. Arrivals by cruise ships grew 6.2 percent to 14,384 visitors.

For the first two months of 2011, total visitor days for all visitors increased 11.9 percent compared to year-to-date 2010, and total arrivals rose 11.9 percent, to 1,190,506 visitors.

Additional Total Air Visitor Highlights: The total number of visitors who came for meetings, conventions and incentives (MCI) in February 2011 grew 57.1 percent from a year ago, with strong growth from all top four visitor markets (see Meetings, Conventions, Incentive Visitor Highlights, page 6). More total visitors also came to get married (+25.7%) in Hawai‘i compared to last February, with increased visitors from U.S. West (+67.6%) and Japan (+10.9%). Significantly more visitors went on group tours (+27%) compared to February 2010, largely due to strong increases from U.S. West (+40.9%), U.S. East (+26.7%), Japan (+15%) and Canada (+128.8%). Hotel properties saw a 14.1 percent growth in total visitors compared to February 2010, with the largest growth from Canada (+28.2%), U.S. West (+15.5%) and U.S. East (+13.9%).

Read the entire report here - including Maui County highlights.

(Report Provided by The Hawai'i Tourism Authority)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 8:20 a.m. HST

Possible Fifth O'ahu Dengue Case Afflicts Wife of KITV Reporter

The state Department of Health is investigating a fifth possible case of dengue fever in Hawaii reported by Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.

Being tested is a blood sample from Mimi Allgire, 51, of Makiki, who came down with a fever of 102.5 degrees and severe leg pain.

The Health Department announced Thursday two confirmed and two suspected cases of dengue fever in a Pearl City family and a neighbor last month, the first locally contracted cases in 10 years. All have recovered. Results of the two suspected cases are expected in a week.

On March 21 Allgire saw a doctor, who treated her for the flu and sent her home with Vicodin for her pain, said her husband, KITV news reporter Dick Allgire. Her condition did not improve, so she returned last Tuesday to the emergency room.

She also had rash on her legs and stomach.

Mimi Allgire returned again on Saturday and was given morphine for her pain, Dick Allgire said.

It was then "the doctor said, ‘This is dengue fever,'" Dick Allgire said.

It's not 100 percent certain, he said, but the doctor consulted with an infectious disease specialist who confirmed the symptoms appeared to be in line with dengue.

Mimi Allgire's blood sample was sent to the Centers for Disease Control for testing, he said.

She has not traveled outside the state, Dick Allgire said, and has not gone outside the Makiki-Kapiolani-Kaimuki area and does not recall being bitten by mosquitoes.

Reach Leila Fujimori at lfujimori@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 7:40 a.m. HST

Tsunami Victims Came in All Shapes, Sizes and Species

AIR STATION BARBERS POINT - Tsunamis generated by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off Japan earlier this month swept up a one week-old Hawaiian monk seal pup and separated her from her mother at a remote atoll northwest of the main Hawaiian islands, but a state wildlife worker managed to reunite the pair shortly after.

The pup was crying for her mother after tsunamis hit Kure Atoll nearly 1,400 miles northwest of Honolulu on March 11, said the atoll's field camp supervisor Cynthia Vanderlip, a biologist with the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources. But the mother was asleep about 150 feet away and didn't hear her pup's cries.

Vanderlip waited a while, then carried the tiny seal to her mother.

"The mom — she growled at me for that. She wasn't very grateful. But they immediately nuzzled," Vanderlip told reporters Monday.

Another mother-pup pair wound up farther inland than they normally would be after the tsunamis, perhaps after being pushed ashore by the waves. But they were together.

The mammal is an endangered species, with only about 1,100 animals remaining in the wild. The seal's population is also dwindling at a rate of about 4 percent per year in part because juvenile seals in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which include Kure, have been struggling to survive. Scientists believe this is because the youngsters are having a hard time competing with other species for food.

Vanderlip said if the tsunamis had arrived just a few weeks later, more pups would have been in danger across the archipelago of small atolls making up the nation's single largest conservation area, the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. That's because the waves hit just before the peak birthing season. One pup was born at Kure just two days after the tsunamis.

Officials are still assessing the damage the tsunamis caused Kure and other parts of the monument. They plan to compare aerial photos and video taken from a Coast Guard C-130 plan last week with photos on file as part of their analysis.

They won't be able to assess damage to coral reefs and other underwater habitats until divers visit the areas during a research cruise in the summer.

Midway Atoll, which is home to one million Laysan albatross seabirds, an old Navy base and an emergency landing strip, appears to have suffered the most damage. Scientists estimate a couple thousand albatross adults and 110,000 chicks were killed by the tsunamis.

On Kure, large coastal sand dunes blocked and slowed the waves, helping limit the carnage to three albatross adults and hundreds of albatross chicks. The dunes, which reach as high as 20 feet, have been growing over the past decade as state officials have removed invasive weeds and planted native naupaka shrubs.

In contrast, tsunamis washed over airplane runways and old seawalls along Midway's coasts. Laysan island's sand dunes were destroyed by a rabbit infestation.

Elizabeth Flint, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, said the tsunamis offered a preview of what could happen to the low-lying atolls as global warming lifts sea levels and causes storms to develop more frequently. Flint said she expects the high water events such as these to eat away at seabird habitats.

"This is a problem that we expect to have again, not because we're expecting another tsunami but because of changing climate," Flint said.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 29, 2011 6:55 a.m. HST

Tsunami Debris Expected to Float to West Coast, Then to Hawai'i

SEATTLE - A Seattle oceanographer says some debris from Japan's tsunami and earthquake may wash up on the West Coast in about one to three years, before currents carry it towards Hawaii.

Curt Ebbesmeyer says how fast the flotsam arrives depends on the material. A derelict vessel could take 12 months, while a rubber ducky may take two to three years.

He says the floating debris will likely flow in a big circle, carried by currents from Japan to Washington, Oregon and British Columbia before turning toward Hawaii and back toward Asia.

Most of the debris will be plastic items. Heavier items like cars will sink.

Ebbesmeyer and another scientist have been mapping the path of ocean debris for years and he wrote a book about the research.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 28, 2011 5:10 p.m. HST

HTA Working with JAL to Resume Flights from Japan to Hawai'i

The following statement was made today by Mike McCartney, President and CEO of the Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA) in response to the announcement of the reduction in flights between Japan and Honolulu by Japan Airlines (JAL).

"The Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA) understands the difficult decision Japan Airlines (JAL) has made to temporarily reduce flights from Narita to Honolulu in April 2011. We remain committed to working with JAL on efforts to drive demand and reinstate air seats to Hawai'i when appropriate.

"The HTA has projected a shortfall in targeted arrivals from Japan in the coming month that factors in the anticipated reduction in passenger counts due to flight consolidations out of this market. In response to the decline, the HTA board approved more than $3.055 million to support efforts to stabilize all markets and maintain Hawai'i's market share position. We will be working with our marketing contractors and visitor industry partners to implement programs to increase the number of visitors from other major markets including North America, Oceania, China and Korea.

"We will continue to actively monitor the situation and assess the impact the short-term consolidation of flights will have on Hawai'i. While it is important to Hawai'i's visitor industry that the airlines providing service to our state remain healthy and viable, right now, our main concern is for the Japanese people and helping them recover from this tragedy. We encourage others to join us in supporting the "Aloha for Japan" fundraising efforts."

(Report Provided by the Hawai'i Tourism Authority)

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NEWS FLASH - March 28, 2011 2:40 p.m. HST

Trace Amounts of Radioactive Iodine-131 Reported in Hawai'i from Japan

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identified radioactive iodine-131 as the isotope that so far has reached Hawaii from the Japanese nuclear crisis.

The EPA said radiation levels detected were “thousands of times” below that which would pose a health threat.

The EPA said it detected 0.759 picocuries per meter cubed on March 20; 1.35 picocuries on March 21 and 0.182 picocuries last Wednesday on Oahu. The EPA characterized those levels as “trace amounts.”

“The iodine result is consistent with March 21 preliminary monitor results in Hawaii of a detection of a minuscule level of an isotope consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident,” the EPA said in an e-mail. “The levels are slightly higher than what was found earlier this week on the west coast, but still thousands of times below levels of concern.”

The Associated Press reported today that three of the Fukushima nuclear power complex’s six reactors are believed to have partially melted down, and that plutonium — a heavy element less likely to spread far — was found in soil outside the nuclear facility.

Trace amounts of radiation have registered in the U.S. as far as the East Coast. For comparison, the EPA said previous iodine-131 amounts detected in San Francisco measured 0.0682 picocuries per meter cubed, and 0.0134 picocuries in Seattle.

According to the agency, the threshold for shelter and evacuation to be considered for iodine-131 begins when people are subjected to 37 million picocuries per meter cubed in one hour, or 385,000 picocuries per meter cubed for 96 hours.

Radioactive iodine, cesium and tellurium were confirmed in California and Washington. California also registered xenon.

The EPA said the radiation levels in California and Washington were “hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern.”

Jeff Eckerd, acting program manager of the Hawaii Health Department’s indoor and radiological health branch, previously said he expected to see the same isotopes here.

“I think the numbers are going to be low (in Hawaii), and it will even get significantly lower because iodine-131, tellurium-132 and xenon are relatively short-lived — I mean hours to days,” Eckerd said last week. “It will decay out rather quickly.”

Cesium has a longer life, and Eckerd said the Health Department probably would be tracking trace amounts of radioactivity in Hawaii “for months if not longer.”

Reach William Cole at wcole@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 28, 2011 2:40 p.m. HST

Lahaina Fishing Crew Rescues Turtle 3,000 Miles From Home

When co-captains Ryan Fiedorowicz and Jason Duby of the Lahaina-based charter fishing boat Start Me Up Ladat saw splashes about eight miles south of Lanai in water about 1,000 feet deep, they knew something was wrong. The skippers, who had visitor anglers aboard, looped back to the disturbance and found a small sea turtle tangled in a cargo net, struggling for its life.

While Ryan drove, Jason leaned over the side, cut the net and lifted the exhausted turtle aboard. The little creature was so worn out it couldn't lift its head from the deck.

Ryan thought the turtle looked slightly different from Hawaii's turtles, its shell darker and more pointed at the rear. He called Maui Ocean Center curator John Gorman, who contacted federal turtle biologist George Balazs. George gave permission to bring the rescued turtle ashore, and soon the 9-pound turtle was resting in its own tank at the Maui Ocean Center. Ryan, whose nickname is Rhino, named the tough little survivor Rhino Kai.

When George and colleagues arrived the next day to examine the youngster, they discovered through genetic testing that the turtle was indeed different. It came from Michoacán, a state in Mexico approximately the same latitude as Hawaii but more than 3,000 miles east.

Rhino Kai is the same species as Hawaii's greens, but from a different genetic stock known as the East Pacific green turtle. Another common name is black turtle, due to its dusky shell.

Green turtles, by the way, are not green. The name comes from their green body fat.

Mexico's black turtles probably swim this far offshore normally, but we see them in Hawaii only when they're injured or caught in nets. Only two have been previously recorded in Hawaii's waters, making Rhino Kai a rare celebrity.

After three days of rest, the 13-inch (shell length) turtle was ready to go back to its life at sea. George placed a satellite tag on the healthy animal's shell, and Ryan and Jason returned it to the area where they found it. Ryan said that when they let go of the turtle, "it took off like a gunshot."

Since the release on Dec. 31, Rhino Kai's tiny transmitter has been showing the turtle's zigzag course as it forages for food on the high seas. The device is expected to send this valuable information for about a year, but Rhino Kai will continue to eat and grow for up to 50 years (depending on food) before returning to Mexico to reproduce.

Aloha and good luck, Rhino Kai. We're working on a solution to those lost nets.

Susan Scott can be reached at www.susanscott.net.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 28, 2011 8:10 a.m. HST

Coast Guard to Report on Tsunami Damage at Papahanaumokuakea

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed a fly-over of the damage one of the world's largest marine reserves sustained in the tsunami.

Coast Guard officials will be showing photographs and data taken from a flight over the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in a planned briefing Monday. State wildlife agencies have been trying to figure out the best strategy for completing clean-up and ecosystem restoration at the 10 atolls and islands that make up the monument.

The Coast Guard says the March 11 tsunami washed away tens of thousands of tropical sea birds that were nesting in the reserve.

Field camp workers, volunteers and others at Laysan Island and Kure Atoll were successfully evacuated by ship.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 28, 2011 6:50 a.m. HST

Residents Raise Concern Over Road Use During Windfarm Construction

Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer's plan to use a resort road through Wailea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch land.

"It's going to affect us economically," said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Community Association.

Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC's activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.

Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wailea Alanui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.

He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Piilani Highway.

"We're hoping we can come up with some resolution," Pikrone said.

The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind's draft environmental impact statement.

Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.

The company, owned by Sempra Generation of San Diego, is also developing a habitat conservation plan on how to lessen its environmental impact, including on endangered species such as New­ell's shearwater, the Hawaiian petrel, the Hawaiian hoary bat and the nene.

In its draft environmental statement, Auwahi Wind said some endangered bird species might die from hitting proposed wind turbine towers and power wires and that its construction could affect 12 archaeological sites.

Sempra Generation spokes­man Scott Crider said his company is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv­ice and state conservation officials in developing the habitat conservation plan.

"We recognize our responsibility to develop Auwahi Wind in a way that is respectful to the environment," he said.

Crider said the public will have 60 days to comment on the plan after it is completed this summer.

The company said it is consulting with the state Historic Preservation Division to develop a plan to reduce the impact on archaeological sites.

The project, estimated to cost $140 million, is projected to provide 21 megawatts of electricity from eight to 15 wind turbines, Crider said.

Crider said his firm is unable to describe the size of the turbines because it hasn't selected the manufacturer.

Several years ago, Kaheawa Wind in Maalaea devised a similar habitat conservation plan at Maalaea, developing predator-proof fencing for endangered nene. The company's turbines are now generating power.

The public may comment by April 21 on the draft environmental impact statement available for review online at the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Comments may be sent to the accepting authority, County of Maui, Planning Commission, 250 S. High St., Wailuku 96793.

Reach Gary Kubota at gkubota@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 27, 2011 10:20 a.m. HST

Eruption Resumes at Pu'u O'o Crater - Watch the Webcam

Lava has returned to Pu'u 'O'o crater after a pause of nearly 17 days in lava activity in Kilauea's east rift zone, scientists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said last night.

Lava was seen in Pu'u 'O'o at 10:09 a.m. Saturday, slowly filling the deepest parts of the crater. The lava is so far confined to the crater.

An abrupt deflation occurred about the same time that lava appeared in the crater, but the deflation then switched to inflation by 11:00 a.m. The eruption of lava was also heralded by a brief seismic tremor burst, scientists said.

The Pu'u 'O'o crater floor abruptly collapsed on March 5 and lava began fountaining from fissures southwest of Pu'u 'O'o later that afternoon. The Kamoamoa fissure eruption continued until March 9, when all lava activity ceased until yesterday.

The activity is visible on the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's Pu'u 'O'o crater webcam.

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/cams/POcam/

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 27, 2011 7:30 a.m. HST

Alaska Air Computer Glitch Resolved - Most Flights Back on Track

SEATTLE — A computer system outage that disrupted Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air flights yesterday has been resolved. The majority of Alaska and Horizon flights are operating on time although the airlines have delayed about a dozen flights due to crew scheduling issues. Customers traveling today are still advised to check the status of their flight at www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR before leaving for the airport.

Throughout the day yesterday, Alaska and Horizon canceled 150 flights affecting some 12,150 passengers. Customers were being re-accommodated on the next available flight at no charge and in some cases on other airlines.
“With computer systems restored and our operation back on track today, we will continue to assist those customers whose flights were canceled yesterday,”

Alaska Airlines President Brad Tilden said. “On behalf of the 13,000 Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees, I offer my profound apology to customers inconvenienced by this disruption.”

Customers whose flight plans were affected by the computer outage and have been re-accommodated are advised to contact the airlines’ Customer Care team at http://bit.ly/eJUPTe.

(Report Provided by Alaska Airlines)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 3:10 p.m. HST

Red Cross Responding to Single-Family House Fire in Haiku

WAILUKU, March 26, 2011 - Volunteers with the American Red Cross responding to a single family residential fire reported on Kapuai Road in Haiku. Red Cross disaster volunteers are heading to the scene to meet with affected residents and ensure their immediate emergency needs for food, shelter and clothing are met. Caseworkers will continue to follow up with anyone affected in the coming weeks to provide referrals, guidance or additional assistance as needed to help with the recovery process
.
The Red Cross encourages all families to make a disaster plan to include an evacuation plan with two different routes of escape, a communications plan to help families reconnect after disaster and a disaster supplies kit that is readily available to aid in a quick evacuation. Information on developing a family plan is available to the public at www.redcross.org, or a brochure can be requested by calling 734-2101.

The Red Cross is a non-profit humanitarian organization which provides assistance to meet the immediate emergency needs of those affected by disasters. All Red Cross assistance to disaster victims is free. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it depends on public contributions to help others. Your gift supports the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross in your community, across the country and around the world. To send a contribution, mail your check to:
American Red Cross
Hawaii State Chapter
45 North Market Street
Wailuku, HI 96793

(Report Provided by the Maui Office, Hawai'i Chapter of the American Red Cross)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 11:15 a.m. HST

State May Drain Hurricane Fund to Balance Budget

Hawaii is running out of time to find an estimated $232 million needed to balance the budget over the next three months, leading Gov. Neil Abercrombie's administration to consider emptying the state's hurricane relief fund, The Associated Press has learned.

Budget Director Kalbert Young told AP that the entire $117 million hurricane relief fund may be drained after the state's finances reached critical levels since a tsunami hit and revenue forecasts plunged this month.

But without the fund, Hawaii's government would be leaving residents and businesses at risk of not being able to get insurance coverage if insurance companies stop issuing policies after a major hurricane, similar to what happened following Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

The hurricane fund went dormant in 2002, after insurance companies returned to the Hawaii market.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 10:45 a.m. HST

Sloppy, Choppy Surf On East Shores Through Tonight

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has extended the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for EAST FACING SHORES of MOLOKAI and MAUI which remains in effect until 6:00 p.m. this evening.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: Strong trade winds are slowly decreasing. These winds to the east of the islands have caused rough and choppy surf on east facing shores.

Rough surf will be 5 to 8 feet today, gradually lowering to 4 to 7 feet tonight. High surf will continue through this afternoon.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

The next high tide of approximately 1.9 feet is expected between 9:08 p.m. and 10:26 p.m. this evening.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 7:45 a.m. HST

Computer Failure Grounds Many Alaska Airlines Flights

SEATTLE — A central computer system used to prepare flight plans and other information went down this morning and is causing multiple departure delays and some cancellations. Many morning flights have been delayed by two hours or more and other delays are expected throughout Alaska Airlines’ route network until the system is restored.

Passengers are advised to check the status of their flight on www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR before leaving for the airport. IT specialists are working aggressively to restore the system and have made some progress since the system went down at 3 a.m.

The airline is working to accommodate customers on other airlines and will add additional flights once the computer system is restored.

(Report Provided by Alaska Airlines)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 6:55 a.m. HST

State Legislature Moves to Protect Health Care System

Hawaii lawmakers are trying to protect the state's unique health insurance system from federal interference because they say the islands' law provides better coverage than the 1-year-old national health care overhaul.

A measure advancing through the state Legislature aims to safeguard Hawaii's health system, which requires businesses to provide insurance to full-time employees, from potential legal challenges.

The bill would eliminate a section of the state law calling for it to be repealed when federal legislation provides for mandatory prepaid health care.

Unlike states opposing the federal requirement that individuals buy health insurance by 2014, Hawaii's overwhelming Democratic political leadership supports the national health law, which President Barack Obama signed one year ago this week.

But they want to be able to use the federal measure to complement state health rules, not replace them.

"We need to be insulated from any decision that the federal law trumps Hawaii state law if ours is better," said Sen. Josh Green, a Big Island emergency room doctor and chairman of the Senate Health Committee. "We want to take the best parts of the federal law ... but I want to make sure we keep the best parts of Hawaii's law, which provides almost universal coverage."

Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents, at 7 percent compared to 15 percent nationwide, according to Kaiser Family Foundation figures based on 2009 Census data. Massachusetts had the lowest percentage of uninsured, at 4 percent.

Hawaii's Prepaid Health Care Act requires businesses to provide health insurance and limits employees' share of health costs to 1.5 percent of monthly gross earnings.

Green (D, Milolii-Waimea) said the federal health law should force state insurance companies to accept clients who have pre-existing conditions without infringing on the Hawaii's existing system.

Republican representatives opposed the measure and introduced a failed amendment that would have instead studied the effects of federal health law on Hawaii.

"Why are we in this chamber wanting to implement parts of Obamacare when this own bill is saying that our Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act is superior?" asked Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point), during debate of the bill on the House floor this month.

The national health law already includes an exemption for Hawaii that says it shouldn't be construed to modify or limit the state's law.

But court challenges to either the federal or state laws could endanger Hawaii's system, Green said.

In its first year, the federal health law ensured that 69,000 children in Hawaii would be protected if they had pre-existing conditions, and 22,000 Medicare recipients who fell into the coverage gap called the "doughnut hole" received $250 rebates, said Herb Schultz, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The Affordable Care Act is bringing real benefits for people in Hawaii and across the country," he said. "We're ensuring that some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry are a thing of the past."

Hawaii's legislation cleared the state House and two Senate committees this month. It's now pending before its final Senate committee.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 7:25 p.m. HST

Stubborn Lava-Set Fire 50 Percent Contained on Big Island

The National Park Service is reporting progress in the battle against a wildfire that has burned 2,076 acres in the east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano.

The Napau fire was 50 percent contained today, the park service reported.

Lighter trades and rain helped the 50 National Park Service firefighters in their attempts to prevent the wildfire from spreading on its southern perimeter to the Chain of Craters Road.

The wildfire was sparked on March 5 by lava from the Kamoamoa eruption.

The fire, which had threatened a rainforest home to endangered species, is about seven miles southeast of the Kilauea visitor center.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 6:35 p.m. HST

Maui Teams Fare Well At State Robotics Competition

HONOLULU – After the first day of the 2011 FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition sponsored by BAE Systems, which got underway today at the Stan Sheriff Center, the top 15:

1. Waialua High School
2. McKinley High School
3. Punahou School
4. Waiakea High School
5. Baldwin High School
6. Kapolei High School
7. Pearl City High School
8. Moanalua High School
9. Sacred Hearts Academy
10. Farrington High School
11. Waianae High School
12. Kalaheo High School
13. King Kekaulike High School
14. West Hawaii Explorations Academy
15. Mililani High School

Also during today’s competition, awards were handed out to:

• Maui High School: Excellence in Design Award - Sponsored by Autodesk
• Greater Syndey High Schools, Sydney, Australia: Imagery Award in Honor of Jack Kamen
• Waiakea High School: Innovation in Control Award - Sponsored by Rockwell Automation
• Baldwin High School: Creativity Award - Sponsored by Xerox
• McKinley High School: Engineering Excellence Award - Sponsored by Delphi
• Kalani High School: Entrepreneurship Award - Sponsored by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• Pearl City High School: Rookie Inspiration Award
• Waialua High School: Website Award
• McKinley High School: Woodie Flowers Award for outstanding mentor, Ms. Elaine Owens

More than 1,000 students representing 33 public, private and charter schools from across the state, as well as Australia, are participating in the third annual Hawai‘i regional robotics competition, which tests students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Top-performing teams will move on to the 2011 FIRST Robotics Championship at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, April 27-30.

In this year’s challenge named “LOGO MOTION”, two alliances of three teams compete on a 27-by-54-foot field with poles, and earn points by hanging as many triangle, circle and square logo pieces as possible. Bonus points are earned for each robot that can hang and assemble logo pieces to form the FIRST logo. Robots can also deploy Mini-Bots to climb vertical poles for a chance to earn additional points.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common engineering problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules. The competition allows students to apply academic knowledge and innovation, while developing teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will better prepare them to continue their education and enter the workforce.

The competition wraps up tomorrow, with qualifying rounds starting at 9:00 a.m., followed by final rounds beginning at 1:30 p.m. An awards ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

A schedule of the 2011 FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Competition, list of participating teams, challenge overview and volunteer information are available at www.hawaiiiroc.org.

About Robotics Education in Hawai‘i

FIRST Robotics is one of six programs which are supported by the Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC), including FIRST, FIRST LEGO League, Underwater ROV, Botball, VEX Robotics and Micro Robotics.

Recognizing the importance of promoting robotics education at an early age and sustaining students’ interest in STEM education throughout their schooling, Hawai‘i’s six robotics programs joined together to form the Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC). The six of the robotics programs are coordinating efforts to promote robotics education in elementary, middle and high schools statewide.

To learn more about robotics education in Hawai‘i, visit the Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee website at: www.hawaiiiroc.org.

(Report Provided by the Hawai'i Robotic Organizing Committee)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 5:05 p.m. HST

Brushfire Controlled in Kihei

 


FIRE! - Looking much more scary than it turned out to be, a brushfire in Kihei this afternoon burned at least five acres of grass and trees makai of Pi'ilani Highway but was quickly contained by Maui Fire crews. This unedited video shows the first crews on the scene keeping flames away from homes and people. (Maui TV News video)

Fire crews from at least four Maui Fire stations knocked down a brushfire that erupted this afternoon around 3:40 p.m. Maui Police closed a portion of Pi'ilani Highway as smoke obscured the vision of drivers. The blaze broke out between Keala and Kanani Roads. By 4:45 p.m. the fire was declared under control. The fire was declared extinguished at 8 p.m.

As of 5 p.m., at least three acres have burned. At one point flames came within 50 yards of homes. Three engine companies, two tanker trucks and one ladder truck responded. Crews quickly surrounded the flames and - as they have in recent fires - quickly reduced danger to lives and property. Maui Police closed one southbound lane of Pi'ilani Highway to allow fire crews access to the scene. The only damage reported was thick brush and the hulks of rusted derelict cars dumped into the gulch long ago.

No word on the cause of the blaze. The Prince Kuhio holiday has made information access spotty.

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 1:30 p.m. HST

DOH Says Radiation Levels 'Millions of Times Below Concern'

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had yet to identify the radiation that arrived here Monday from Japan, a state health official said yesterday he expects the isotopes that have been detected on the West Coast to be seen in Hawaii, and in similarly low levels.

Radioactive iodine, cesium and tellurium have been confirmed in California and Washington. California also registered xenon, and health officials in Colo­rado and Oregon say traces of iodine have been picked up.

Jeff Eckerd, acting program manager of the Hawaii Health Department's indoor and radiological health branch, said he expects to see the same isotopes here.

"After the first sample (confirmation) comes out, I think we'll start to see (radiation) numbers coming out of the EPA pretty much on a daily basis," Eckerd said.

The EPA emphasized that the radiation levels in California and Washington were "hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern."

"I think the numbers are going to be low (in Hawaii), and it will even get significantly lower because iodine-131, tellurium-132 and xenon are relatively short-lived — I mean hours to days," Eckerd said. "It will decay out rather quickly."

Cesium has a longer life, and Eckerd said the Health Department probably will be tracking trace amounts of radioactivity in Hawaii "for months if not longer."

The average person is exposed to about 620 millirems of radiation a year from a variety of sources. According to the American Nuclear Society, a chest X-ray is 10 millirems, flying in a jetliner results in 0.5 millirems per hour and radon in the air can reach 228 millirems a year.

Television and computer screens can mean exposure to 1 millirem, and food and water contribute 40 millirems per year.

Health experts said 35,000 millirems is the lowest exposure of ionizing radiation that could lead to mild changes in the blood. It would be necessary to receive 3,500 chest X-rays for that dose. The EPA reported that normal "background" gamma ray exposure rates for Oahu typically range between 0.005 and 0.020 millirems per hour.

The EPA said the iodine-131 level detected in San Francisco was .0682 picocuries per meter cubed. It did not convert to millirems.

According to the agency, the threshold for shelter and evacuation to be "considered" for iodine-131 starts when people are subjected to 37 million picocuries per meter cubed in one hour, or 385,000 picocuries per meter cubed for 96 hours.

Eckerd said radiation that hit California on the jet stream might have swirled around in winds that hit Hawaii on Monday. He added that the delay in the EPA identifying the isotope that reached here might be due to a backlog of samples from the mainland that need to be identified.

"We really want to let people know we're tracking (the situation)," Eckerd said. "We don't expect this to happen, but if the situation escalates we will be notifying the public and they should listen to public health officials for any precautionary measures. But again, at this time we don't expect any harmful levels to reach Hawaii."

Reach William Cole at wcole@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 10 a.m. HST

Japan Quake Aid Coming From Unlikely Corner of Society

By Terril Yue Jones

TOKYO — Tons of relief goods have been delivered to victims of Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami from a dark corner of society: the "yakuza" organized crime networks.

Yakuza groups have been sending trucks from the Tokyo and Kobe regions to deliver food, water, blankets and toiletries to evacuation centers in northeast Japan, the area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which have left at least 27,000 dead and missing.

Yakuza are better known for making money from extortion, gambling, pornography and prostitution, as well as for the often-elaborate tattoos covering much of their bodies.

But disasters bring out another side of yakuza, who move swiftly and quietly to provide aid to those most in need.

As with the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake, government workers were slow in reaching afflicted areas and the 300,000 or so survivors, so yakuza groups stepped in and in many cases were first on the ground.

'Dropouts from society'
Experts on the gangs say such actions stem from yakuza knowing what it's like to have to fend for yourself, without any government or community support.

Many gang members faced discrimination and come from minority populations such as ethnic Koreans or are "burakumin" — those who work in businesses seen as related to death, such as butchers and leather tanners.

"Yakuza are dropouts from society," said Manabu Miyazaki, a prolific author who has written more than 100 books about yakuza and minorities.

"They've suffered, and they're just trying to help other people who are in trouble," said Miyazaki, himself the son of a former Kyoto yakuza boss.

Others see ulterior motives to the groups' charity.

"If they help citizens, it's hard for the police to say anything bad," said Tomohiko Suzuki, a journalist who has written several books on Japan's underworld.

"The yakuza are trying to position themselves to gain contracts for their construction companies for the massive rebuilding that will come."

One yakuza boss rejected such criticism.

"It takes too long for the arm of the government to reach out here so it's important to do it now," the Weekly Taishuu magazine, which specializes in yakuza affairs, quoted a top yakuza as saying.

"Our honest sentiment right now is to be of some use to people," said the boss, who declined to be identified.

Gangsters' code of giving
Yakuza groups have so far dispatched at least 70 trucks to the quake zone loaded with supplies worth more than $500,000, according to Jake Adelstein, an expert on yakuza who lives in Tokyo and is writing two books on the Japanese syndicates.

The gangs' charity is rooted in their "ninkyo" code, Adelstein says, which values justice and duty and forbids allowing others to suffer. "In times such as earthquakes, they put their money where their mouths are," he said.

Atsushi Mizoguchi a freelance writer and yakuza antagonizer who has written about organized crime for 40 years, also gives the yakuza the benefit of the doubt.

"Rather than a PR effort, I think it's actually good intentions," said Mizoguchi, who has angered the yakuza so much that he has been stabbed twice in attacks by gang members.

Adelstein explains that there is an informal understanding between yakuza and police who tolerate the gangs carrying out such charitable work, but not seeking publicity for it.

"What they seek most is self-satisfaction," said Miyazaki, the son of the former yakuza boss. "It's not for pay, but for pride."

There are an estimated 80,000 yakuza in Japan. The Sumiyoshi-kai and Inakawa-kai, the second and third biggest organized crime syndicates, are believed to be the most active in the earthquake-tsunami disaster relief.

'We don't talk'
In a phone call to the Inakawai-kai headquarters in Tokyo, a man from the gang's "general affairs division" brusquely told Reuters: "We don't talk." A faxed request to speak with the Inakawa-kai's No.2 leader went unanswered.

Part of the reason for the yakuzas' reluctance to receive attention stems from stepped-up enforcement after a 1992 anti-gang law and increased crackdowns by the National Police Agency over the past year, which have heightened anti-yakuza sentiment among the public.

But there have been no reports of donations being refused — perhaps because there is no indication who supplied them.

And, says author Suzuki, this is not the time to nitpick over the origins of emergency goods.

"When it's life or death, you don't care where your food comes from," he said.

(Report Provided by Reuters News Service)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 9:05 a.m. HST

Endangered Species Endangered Even More By Big Island Wildfire

National Park Service firefighters have spent the week trying to prevent a wildfire ignited by Kilauea volcano from spreading through a protected rain forest inhabited by endangered Hawaiian plants and animals.

Nearly 100 acres of the 2,750-acre east rift zone's special ecological area, a lowland rain forest, has already been destroyed in the fire ignited March 5 by an eruption at the Ka­moa­moa fissure.

The Napau wildfire on the east rift of the Big Island's Kilauea volcano has destroyed 2,076 acres about seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center since early March.

The special ecological area is the home of the endangered Hawaiian bat, Hawaiian hawk and other uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals such as the Hawaiian thrush, lama and sandalwood trees, happy face spiders, carnivorous caterpillars and Hawaiian honeycreepers, said Gary Wuchner, National Park Serv­ice fire information spokes­man. Some of the plants are found only in Hawaii.

Mardi Lane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokes­woman, described the area as "pristine."

"It best represents what Hawaii was and is a seed source for plants and refuge for birds," Lane said. "It is a living laboratory of Hawaiian plants and animals."

Firefighters will be working to keep flames from spreading beyond the 100 acres of the refuge on the northern perimeter of the fire, said Rhonda Loh, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park chief of natural resources management.

"It is the focal point of our fire crews," Loh said.

Wuchner said an infrared mapping flight showed the fire's fuel comprises "single logs, standing dead trees, stumps, roots and large dead areas of vegetation, and mostly on the southeast perimeter."

But there also is concern for the endangered plants and animals living in the southern Keala­komo and Naula Special Ecological Areas located south of the Chain of Craters Road, which reopened yesterday after being closed for two days because of the wildfire. A section of the road was closed about six miles from the visitor center at Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu.

Wuchner said fire crews were sent to scout the two areas yesterday.

Park Service firefighters were aided by rain in the area this week. However, firefighters were hampered yesterday by strong tradewinds with gusts up to 45 mph. Flames were visible along the south flank of the volcano's summit and Chain of Craters Road.

Helicopters have been shuttling Park Service firefighting crews and equipment into the fire area. At work are 43 Park Serv­ice firefighters from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in California; Olympic and Yosemite national parks; the Pacific West Regional Office in Oakland; the National NPS Fire Office in Boise, Idaho; and the Eldorado, Sequoia, Stanislaus and Los Padres national forests in California.

Reach Gregg Kakesako at gkakesako@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 6:45 a.m. HST

More Details Released on O'ahu Dengue Fever Cases

Four people who live in the same Pearl City neighborhood are the first known Hawaii cases of locally contracted dengue fever since a 2001 outbreak in which 153 people were infected with the mosquito-borne viral illness, health officials announced yesterday.

A Pearl City woman who traveled to Wisconsin last month was hospitalized for high fever, among other symptoms, and was diagnosed with dengue fever after a blood test for the disease came back positive.

Also showing symptoms of the disease are two adults who are members of her family and their neighbor. None has traveled elsewhere.

Two cases are confirmed, and the other two are awaiting test results.

"It's certainly possible, given that we've found this cluster of four — two of whom were not diagnosed by their clinicians — it's entirely possible there were others," said state Epidemiologist Sarah Park. "You only need one person infected who has the virus in their blood and they get bit by a mosquito, and you have a mosquito that's infected."

Park likened it to drug users spreading disease by sharing dirty needles.

All prior known Hawaii cases of dengue since the outbreak a decade ago were imported, said Gary Gill, deputy director for environmental health.

No deaths have occurred, even during the 2001 outbreak.

The data show that from 2002 to 2009, cases ranged from three to 14 a year. One year had no cases.

"This is a good wake-up call for all of us, especially to us clinicians," said Park. "Mainland docs think we have dengue all the time. We generally say it's not endemic here."

Park said that after the woman went to the Wisconsin hospital with severe symptoms, the doctor surmised, "'Hmm, comes from Hawaii,' and did the dengue test."

The Health Department sent out a medical alert to Oahu physicians this week, advising them to consider the potential for dengue infection in those with compatible symptoms, to request laboratory testing and to report all suspected cases to the Health Department.

The symptoms usually start five to six days after a patient is bitten by an infected mosquito, but the onset can range from two to 15 days. Symptoms include a sudden fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eye, joint and muscle pain and rash — typically on hands, arms, legs and feet three to four days after the fever starts.

Park said the symptoms ranged in severity, with the youngest of the four Pearl City adults having the mildest symptoms.

Park expressed concern that people have been complaining of flulike symptoms might have had the disease. Usually a severe fever that "feels like your bone is breaking" accompanies the ailment, she said.

Younger children tend to have milder symptoms and might show none.

There is no vaccine for dengue fever. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used to reduce fever, but since bleeding can occur, aspirin and ibuprofen or naproxen (which can worsen bleeding problems) should not be used.

Dengue fever also can result in seizures. But just as the fever is resolving, it can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever, Park said. This next stage is marked by abnormal bleeding and shock.

The disease is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, which become infected after biting humans with the disease, and cannot be transmitted from human to human.

To prevent the disease from spreading, the Health Department advises people with dengue to remain indoors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and possibly pass the dengue to another person. The department also urges the public to remove standing water from places in their yards such as gutters, old tires and bromeliads where water collects, which could serve as mosquito breeding grounds.

"We expect to see tight concentrations of the disease and in small areas," said the Health Department's Gill.

The Health Department has sent out vector control, sanitation and epidemiology personnel to the 70 people in the Pearl City neighborhood. So far, 10 people have had their blood drawn for testing.

Health Department officials said they don't know whether there might have been prior cases of dengue fever transmitted by local exposure.

An infected mosquito can spread it not only to other humans, but among their pool and to their offspring, Park said.

Gill emphasized the species of mosquito in Hawaii that transmits the disease, Aedes albopictus, does so inefficiently.

In 2001 the disease was concentrated in East Maui, but confirmed cases were found on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.

Health officials believed the virus was brought to Maui by visitors who had traveled to French Polynesia and the Samoas.

Prior to that, Hawaii's last major outbreak, with 1,200 cases, came at the end of World War II, resulting in several deaths.

Reach Leila Fujimori at lfujimori@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 6:35 a.m. HST

U.S. DOT Resumes Subsidies of Flights to Kalaupapa

The U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to subsidize air service to and from Kalaupapa.

Federal officials said Thursday they will help fund air service for the Hawaiian leprosy settlement and choose an air carrier through a competitive bidding process.

The call for bids will include a subsidy which could reduce current airfares between Honolulu and the former Molokai colony as much as 60 percent.

Sen. Daniel Inouye says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hopes to have an air carrier ready by summer.

Federal funds will also go toward buying a ramp and other equipment to help patients and residents with disabilities.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 5:55 p.m. HST

Tsunami Damage Totals $30.6 Million in Hawai'i

Honolulu – Governor Neil Abercrombie today formally requested an Administrative Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help Hawai'i Island homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits affected by the tsunami that swept across the state on March 11, 2011.

Work is also underway on a request to President Obama for a Presidential Disaster Declaration. This declaration would enable counties (Hawai'i County, Maui County, and the City and County of Honolulu) damaged by the Honshu (Tohoku) Tsunami to recoup some of the costs of rebuilding and repairing damaged public infrastructure, such as buildings and harbors.

Governor Abercrombie asked the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide low-interest disaster loans to private individuals, businesses and nonprofits on Hawai'i Island to repair or replace materials damaged from the tsunami. Damages sustained on the other islands did not qualify for disaster loans under SBA guidelines.

“These are follow-up steps to help those affected by the tsunami. When I visited places that were hard hit like the Big Island, the first step was already being done and that is the sharing of the aloha spirit and communities pulling together to take care of one another,” said Governor Abercrombie. “We are looking at every option that may be available to provide financial assistance to those who need it.”

The State Civil Defense is also coordinating with state and county agencies to open a Disaster Assistance and Recovery Center at the Old Kona Airport Event Pavilion, located at 75-5530 Kuakini Highway, from Tuesday, March 29 to Wednesday, March 30 at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. State agencies and community groups will be there to answer questions from residents and businesses affected by the tsunami on a wide range of programs and services.

According to estimates reported to the State Civil Defense, the preliminary damage estimates from the tsunami that hit Hawai'i after the Honshu earthquake in Japan totals $30.6 million.


Government Damage Estimates Reported:
Hawai'i County $2.3 million
Maui County $2.7 million
City and County of Honolulu $3.4 million
Kaua'i County $60,400

Total Public Infrastructure Damages $8.5 million

Damages to Businesses and Residents:
West Hawai'i businesses $13.5 million
Hawai'i Island homes $2.5 million
Maui County homes $600,000
Private Property (including boats) $5.5 million

Residents and business owners should report any damage to their property, home or business to Aloha United Way by dialing 2-1-1 (Monday through Friday) or to the State Civil Defense toll free line at 855-211-7456 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). Aloha United Way’s 2-1-1 operators will record damage reports and refer them to the proper agencies. The 2-1-1 line is taking calls Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information visit http://hawaii.gov/gov.

(Report Provided by the Office of Governor Neil Abercrombie)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 1:35 p.m. HST

DOH Investigating Four Dengue Fever Cases on O'ahu

HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) is investigating two confirmed cases and two suspected cases of Oahu residents who became ill with dengue fever in late February. All four adults have recovered and are no longer ill. Based on the ongoing investigation, the four cases appear to be related and were infected near their homes by mosquitoes.

“The Department of Health immediately began precautionary measures by conducting additional testing, surveying and developing a mosquito control plan for the specific areas where these four individuals were likely infected,” said Interim Health Director Loretta Fuddy. “We need the public’s help to clean up mosquito breeding areas throughout Oahu by emptying all standing water, and checking gutters and other areas that collect water.”

The DOH sent out a medical alert to Oahu physicians earlier this week advising them to consider potential dengue infection in persons with compatible symptoms, request appropriate laboratory testing, and report all suspected cases to the DOH.

Oahu residents and visitors are also advised to protect themselves against mosquito bites by applying repellant containing DEET (20-30%) or picaridin to skin and clothing; repairing window and door screens to keep mosquitoes from entering indoors; and wearing darker clothing that covers and protects skin from biting mosquitoes.

Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by the Aedes mosquito that occurs primarily in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The illness is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and rash. Younger children tend to have a milder illness than older children and adults and may show no symptoms. Symptoms may last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take two to four weeks. Treatment consists of rest, fluids, and medications to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Aspirin should not be used to treat a dengue patient.

Those with high fever in addition to any of the symptoms for dengue fever should see their doctor for evaluation. Dengue is transmitted through mosquitoes which become infected by biting persons with fever and then pass on that infection by biting another person. It is important that infected people with fever stay indoors to ensure they are not bitten by mosquitoes and indirectly pass on the infection.

More information on Denue Fever is available on the Department of Health Web site:
http://hawaii.gov/health/DIB/Dengue.html

(Report Provided by the State of Hawai'i, Department of Health)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 11:45 a.m. HST

Road Projects to Affect Traffic on Lana'i and Maui

WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii – The Department of Public Works today announced the following projects beginning on Monday, March 28 2011:

Lanai District Resurfacing
Contractor - Lanai Builders, Inc.

Scope of Work - This project involves cold planing; installing an overlay of asphalt; installing pavement markings and striping; adjusting utilities as required; and other incidental items.
(Streets involved: Gay St.-Kaumalapau Hwy to Eighth St., Tenth St.-Fraser Ave. to Ilima Ave.)

When: March 28, 2011 to May 25, 2011

Please advise the public to proceed with caution as there will be lane closures, one lane closed during construction.


Speed Humps FY '10
Contractor - JM Paving Services, LLC

Scope of Work-This project involves constructing new speed humps in various areas island-wide; pavement striping and markers; and other incidental items.
(Streets Involved: Alohi Place, Aliikoa Place and Kehala Drive)

When: March 28, 2011 - Completion Date: May 10, 2011
(Contract days-30 working days)

Please advise the public to proceed with caution as there will be lane closures, one lane closed during construction.

(Report Provided by the Maui County Office of Information)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 10:35 a.m. HST

State Water Commission Openings Still Available

HONOLULU -- The Commission on Water Resource Management is extending its nomination period until Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The original application period (October 17 - November 22, 2010) ended before Governor Neil Abercrombie took office.

After being sworn in, Governor Abercrombie actively encouraged members of the public to come forward and serve on public boards and commissions. Subsequently, the Governor's office received a number of recommendations for the Commission.

To provide the broadest range of potential candidates in the Abercrombie Administration, the Commission is extending the time to receive nominations.

The Governor's selection will be subject to confirmation by the Hawaii State Senate. Commissioners will serve a four-year term from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2015.

Nomination application forms are available on the Commission website:
http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/cwrm/aboutus_commission.htm#apply For more information call (808) 587-0216.

Please submit completed application forms by April 6 to:
Commission on Water Resource Management,
1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 227
Honolulu, Hawaii. 96813
Ph (808) 587-0214
Fax (808) 587-0219
email: dlnr.cwrm@hawaii.gov
Attn: Susan Danbara

(Report Provided by the State of Hawai'i, Department of Land and Natural Resources)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 10:25 a.m. HST

Sloppy East Waves to 12 Feet Through Friday Evening

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has extended the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for EAST FACING SHORES of MOLOKAI and MAUI now in effect until 6:00 p.m. Friday.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: Strong to near gale force trade winds will continue to generate rough and choppy waves along east facing shores.

Rough surf will be 8 to 12 feet today, lowering to 6 to 10 feet tonight and Friday.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

A high tide of approximately 2.0 feet is expected between 7:18 p.m. and 8:36 p.m. this evening. The next high tide of approximately 1.9 feet is expected between 9:08 p.m. and 10:26 p.m. tomorrow evening.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 9:15 a.m. HST

Gales Blowing in Channels, Land Gusts Up To 50 MPH

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has continued the WIND ADVISORY for Maui County in effect until 6:00 p.m. this evening.

A Wind Advisory means that winds of 30 mph and gusts of 50 mph are expected.

2. EFFECTS: High pressure north of the Islands will continue to produce strong and gusty trade winds.

East winds will be 20 to 30 mph, with frequent gusts up to 50 mph. The strong and gusty winds will be widespread, but the winds will be especially strong through valleys, over ridges and mountain tops, and where they accelerate downslope over the leeward sides of the islands.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: WINDS THIS STRONG CAN MAKE DRIVING DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES. USE EXTRA CAUTION. SECURE ANY LOOSE OBJECTS THAT MAY BECOME AIRBORNE OR MOVE THEM INDOORS. BE ALERT FOR FALLING TREE BRANCHES AND LOCAL POWER OUTAGES.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 8:05 a.m. HST

Firefighters on Big Isle Battle to Save Rain Forest

National Park Service firefighters have spent the week trying to prevent the wild fire ignited by Kilauea Volcano from spreading through a protected rain forest that is inhabited by endangered Hawaiian plants and animals.

Nearly 100 acres of the 2,750-acre east rift zone's special ecological area, an intact lowland rain forest, have already destroyed in the fire ignited March 5 by an eruption at the Kamoamoa fissure.

As of today, the Napau wildfire on the east rift zone of the Big Island's Kilauea volcano has destroyed 2,000 acres approximately seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center.

The area is the home of the endangered Hawaiian bat, Hawaiian hawk, and other uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals such as Hawaiian thrush, lama and sandalwood trees, happy face spiders, carnivorous caterpillars, and Hawaiian honeycreepers said Gary Wuchner, National Park Service fire information spokesman.

Mardi Lane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, described the area as "pristine."

"It best represents what Hawaii was and is a seed source for plants and refuge for birds," Lane said.

"It is a living laboratory of Hawaiian plants and animals."

Firefighters will be working to keep flames from spreading beyond the 100 acres of the refuge, said Rhonda Loh, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park chief of natural resources management.

"It is the focal point of our fire crews," Loh said.

Wuchner said an infrared mapping flight "shows most of the fire are single logs,standing dead trees, stumps, and large dead areas of vegetation...."

National Park Service firefighters were aided by rain in the area Wednesday.

The Napau hiking trail, which begins at the Chain or Craters Road, winds through the refuge.

Firefighters are being hampered by strong gusty trade winds with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Flames were visible along the south flank and Chain of Craters Road.

Helicopters have been shuttling National Park Service firefighting crews and equipment into the fire area. Forty Park Service firefighters from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Olympic and Yosemite National Parks, the Pacific West Regional Office of NPS, National NPS Fire Office in Boise and the Eldorado, Sequoia, Stanislaus and Los Padres National Forests are being used.

Wuchner said the firefighters may have to camp out near the fire line for safety reasons to reduce the number of helicopter flights.

Helicopter bucket drops are helping to cool hotspots and slow the fire's forward progress.

The Chain of Craters Road was closed approximately 6 miles from the visitor center at Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu.

Reach Gregg Kakesako at gkakesako@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 7:15 a.m. HST

Aloha State in Top 5 - in Tax Collections

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Hawaii tax collections grew at the fifth-highest rate in the nation last fiscal year.

Hawaii tax collections rose by 2.66 percent in the 2010 fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year, behind only North Dakota, North Carolina, Nevada and California.

Despite the increase, Hawaii is still facing projected budget shortfalls of nearly $1 billion over the next two fiscal years.

Nationwide, the Census said state government tax collections dropped 2 percent last fiscal year.

Hawaii was one of 11 states to report increases over the previous year's total tax collections, up from five states in 2009.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 6:45 a.m. HST

Club CPO Says Fire Won't Deter Mission in Paukukalo

WAILUKU >> Officials with the Boys and Girls Club in Paukukalo say a fire that destroyed equipment in a storage container won't affect the youth program operated at the Paukukalo Hawaiian Homes Community Center.

Colin Hanlon, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maui, estimated the loss of the container and its contents after Monday's fire would be about $10,000 to $15,000.

The container was used to store sports supplies, furnishings and art.

Hanlon told The Maui News that athletic gear and other equipment from other Boys and Girls Clubs would be used in the Paukukalo program until the equipment can be replaced.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but Maui police say witnesses said two children were playing with fireworks in the area before the fire was reported.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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Coast Guard to Report on Tsunami Damage to Papahanaumokuakea

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed a fly-over of the damage one of the world's largest marine reserves sustained in the tsunami.

Coast Guard officials will be showing photographs and data taken from a flight over the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in a planned briefing Monday. State wildlife agencies have been trying to figure out the best strategy for completing clean-up and ecosystem restoration at the 10 atolls and islands that make up the monument.

The Coast Guard says the March 11 tsunami washed away tens of thousands of tropical sea birds that were nesting in the reserve.

Field camp workers, volunteers and others at Laysan Island and Kure Atoll were successfully evacuated by ship.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 28, 2011 6:50 a.m. HST

Residents Raise Concern Over Road Use During Windfarm Construction

Some South Maui residents are upset about a developer's plan to use a resort road through Wailea and Makena for construction truck access as it builds a wind farm on 120 acres of Ulupalakua Ranch land.

"It's going to affect us economically," said Bud Pikrone, general manager of the Wailea Community Association.

Pikrone said developer Auwahi Wind Energy LLC's activities will create noise in a hotel and residential resort area and cause wear and tear on the roads.

Pikrone said in the last seven years, Wailea Alanui Road has had three sinkholes, including one that closed off an area for 18 months.

He said various large landowners plan to hold a meeting with Auwahi Wind next month to discuss rerouting the truck traffic farther mauka and closer to Pii­lani Highway.

"We're hoping we can come up with some resolution," Pikrone said.

The Maui County Planning Commission held a public hearing Tuesday to review Auwahi Wind's draft environmental impact statement.

Auwahi Wind needs the commission to accept its environmental impact statement before moving to seek land-use permits.

The company, owned by Sempra Generation of San Diego, is also developing a habitat conservation plan on how to lessen its environmental impact, including on endangered species such as New­ell's shearwater, the Hawaiian petrel, the Hawaiian hoary bat and the nene.

In its draft environmental statement, Auwahi Wind said some endangered bird species might die from hitting proposed wind turbine towers and power wires and that its construction could affect 12 archaeological sites.

Sempra Generation spokes­man Scott Crider said his company is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv­ice and state conservation officials in developing the habitat conservation plan.

"We recognize our responsibility to develop Auwahi Wind in a way that is respectful to the environment," he said.

Crider said the public will have 60 days to comment on the plan after it is completed this summer.

The company said it is consulting with the state Historic Preservation Division to develop a plan to reduce the impact on archaeological sites.

The project, estimated to cost $140 million, is projected to provide 21 megawatts of electricity from eight to 15 wind turbines, Crider said.

Crider said his firm is unable to describe the size of the turbines because it hasn't selected the manufacturer.

Several years ago, Kaheawa Wind in Maalaea devised a similar habitat conservation plan at Maalaea, developing predator-proof fencing for endangered nene. The company's turbines are now generating power.

The public may comment by April 21 on the draft environmental impact statement available for review online at the state Office of Environmental Quality Control.

Comments may be sent to the accepting authority, County of Maui, Planning Commission, 250 S. High St., Wailuku 96793.

Reach Gary Kubots at gkubota@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 27, 2011 10:20 a.m. HST

Eruption Resumes at Pu'u O'o Crater - Watch the Webcam

Lava has returned to Pu'u 'O'o crater after a pause of nearly 17 days in lava activity in Kilauea's east rift zone, scientists with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said last night.

Lava was seen in Pu'u 'O'o at 10:09 a.m. Saturday, slowly filling the deepest parts of the crater. The lava is so far confined to the crater.

An abrupt deflation occurred about the same time that lava appeared in the crater, but the deflation then switched to inflation by 11:00 a.m. The eruption of lava was also heralded by a brief seismic tremor burst, scientists said.

The Pu'u 'O'o crater floor abruptly collapsed on March 5 and lava began fountaining from fissures southwest of Pu'u 'O'o later that afternoon. The Kamoamoa fissure eruption continued until March 9, when all lava activity ceased until yesterday.

The activity is visible on the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory's Pu'u 'O'o crater webcam.

http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hvo/cams/POcam/

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 27, 2011 7:30 a.m. HST

Alaska Air Computer Glitch Resolved - Most Flights Back on Track

SEATTLE — A computer system outage that disrupted Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air flights yesterday has been resolved. The majority of Alaska and Horizon flights are operating on time although the airlines have delayed about a dozen flights due to crew scheduling issues. Customers traveling today are still advised to check the status of their flight at www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR before leaving for the airport.

Throughout the day yesterday, Alaska and Horizon canceled 150 flights affecting some 12,150 passengers. Customers were being re-accommodated on the next available flight at no charge and in some cases on other airlines.
“With computer systems restored and our operation back on track today, we will continue to assist those customers whose flights were canceled yesterday,”

Alaska Airlines President Brad Tilden said. “On behalf of the 13,000 Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air employees, I offer my profound apology to customers inconvenienced by this disruption.”

Customers whose flight plans were affected by the computer outage and have been re-accommodated are advised to contact the airlines’ Customer Care team at http://bit.ly/eJUPTe.

(Report Provided by Alaska Airlines)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 3:10 p.m. HST

Red Cross Responding to Single-Family House Fire in Haiku

WAILUKU, March 26, 2011 - Volunteers with the American Red Cross responding to a single family residential fire reported on Kapuai Road in Haiku. Red Cross disaster volunteers are heading to the scene to meet with affected residents and ensure their immediate emergency needs for food, shelter and clothing are met. Caseworkers will continue to follow up with anyone affected in the coming weeks to provide referrals, guidance or additional assistance as needed to help with the recovery process
.
The Red Cross encourages all families to make a disaster plan to include an evacuation plan with two different routes of escape, a communications plan to help families reconnect after disaster and a disaster supplies kit that is readily available to aid in a quick evacuation. Information on developing a family plan is available to the public at www.redcross.org, or a brochure can be requested by calling 734-2101.

The Red Cross is a non-profit humanitarian organization which provides assistance to meet the immediate emergency needs of those affected by disasters. All Red Cross assistance to disaster victims is free. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it depends on public contributions to help others. Your gift supports the lifesaving mission of the American Red Cross in your community, across the country and around the world. To send a contribution, mail your check to:
American Red Cross
Hawaii State Chapter
45 North Market Street
Wailuku, HI 96793

(Report Provided by the Maui Office, Hawai'i Chapter of the American Red Cross)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 11:15 a.m. HST

State May Drain Hurricane Fund to Balance Budget

Hawaii is running out of time to find an estimated $232 million needed to balance the budget over the next three months, leading Gov. Neil Abercrombie's administration to consider emptying the state's hurricane relief fund, The Associated Press has learned.

Budget Director Kalbert Young told AP that the entire $117 million hurricane relief fund may be drained after the state's finances reached critical levels since a tsunami hit and revenue forecasts plunged this month.

But without the fund, Hawaii's government would be leaving residents and businesses at risk of not being able to get insurance coverage if insurance companies stop issuing policies after a major hurricane, similar to what happened following Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

The hurricane fund went dormant in 2002, after insurance companies returned to the Hawaii market.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 10:45 a.m. HST

Sloppy, Choppy Surf On East Shores Through Tonight

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has extended the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for EAST FACING SHORES of MOLOKAI and MAUI which remains in effect until 6:00 p.m. this evening.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: Strong trade winds are slowly decreasing. These winds to the east of the islands have caused rough and choppy surf on east facing shores.

Rough surf will be 5 to 8 feet today, gradually lowering to 4 to 7 feet tonight. High surf will continue through this afternoon.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

The next high tide of approximately 1.9 feet is expected between 9:08 p.m. and 10:26 p.m. this evening.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 7:45 a.m. HST

Computer Failure Grounds Many Alaska Airlines Flights

SEATTLE — A central computer system used to prepare flight plans and other information went down this morning and is causing multiple departure delays and some cancellations. Many morning flights have been delayed by two hours or more and other delays are expected throughout Alaska Airlines’ route network until the system is restored.

Passengers are advised to check the status of their flight on www.alaskaair.com or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR before leaving for the airport. IT specialists are working aggressively to restore the system and have made some progress since the system went down at 3 a.m.

The airline is working to accommodate customers on other airlines and will add additional flights once the computer system is restored.

(Report Provided by Alaska Airlines)

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NEWS FLASH - March 26, 2011 6:55 a.m. HST

State Legislature Moves to Protect Health Care System

Hawaii lawmakers are trying to protect the state's unique health insurance system from federal interference because they say the islands' law provides better coverage than the 1-year-old national health care overhaul.

A measure advancing through the state Legislature aims to safeguard Hawaii's health system, which requires businesses to provide insurance to full-time employees, from potential legal challenges.

The bill would eliminate a section of the state law calling for it to be repealed when federal legislation provides for mandatory prepaid health care.

Unlike states opposing the federal requirement that individuals buy health insurance by 2014, Hawaii's overwhelming Democratic political leadership supports the national health law, which President Barack Obama signed one year ago this week.

But they want to be able to use the federal measure to complement state health rules, not replace them.

"We need to be insulated from any decision that the federal law trumps Hawaii state law if ours is better," said Sen. Josh Green, a Big Island emergency room doctor and chairman of the Senate Health Committee. "We want to take the best parts of the federal law ... but I want to make sure we keep the best parts of Hawaii's law, which provides almost universal coverage."

Hawaii has one of the lowest rates of uninsured residents, at 7 percent compared to 15 percent nationwide, according to Kaiser Family Foundation figures based on 2009 Census data. Massachusetts had the lowest percentage of uninsured, at 4 percent.

Hawaii's Prepaid Health Care Act requires businesses to provide health insurance and limits employees' share of health costs to 1.5 percent of monthly gross earnings.

Green (D, Milolii-Waimea) said the federal health law should force state insurance companies to accept clients who have pre-existing conditions without infringing on the Hawaii's existing system.

Republican representatives opposed the measure and introduced a failed amendment that would have instead studied the effects of federal health law on Hawaii.

"Why are we in this chamber wanting to implement parts of Obamacare when this own bill is saying that our Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Act is superior?" asked Rep. Kymberly Pine (R, Ewa Beach-Iroquois Point), during debate of the bill on the House floor this month.

The national health law already includes an exemption for Hawaii that says it shouldn't be construed to modify or limit the state's law.

But court challenges to either the federal or state laws could endanger Hawaii's system, Green said.

In its first year, the federal health law ensured that 69,000 children in Hawaii would be protected if they had pre-existing conditions, and 22,000 Medicare recipients who fell into the coverage gap called the "doughnut hole" received $250 rebates, said Herb Schultz, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"The Affordable Care Act is bringing real benefits for people in Hawaii and across the country," he said. "We're ensuring that some of the worst abuses of the insurance industry are a thing of the past."

Hawaii's legislation cleared the state House and two Senate committees this month. It's now pending before its final Senate committee.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 7:25 p.m. HST

Stubborn Lava-Set Fire 50 Percent Contained on Big Island

The National Park Service is reporting progress in the battle against a wildfire that has burned 2,076 acres in the east rift zone of Kilauea Volcano.

The Napau fire was 50 percent contained today, the park service reported.

Lighter trades and rain helped the 50 National Park Service firefighters in their attempts to prevent the wildfire from spreading on its southern perimeter to the Chain of Craters Road.

The wildfire was sparked on March 5 by lava from the Kamoamoa eruption.

The fire, which had threatened a rainforest home to endangered species, is about seven miles southeast of the Kilauea visitor center.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 6:35 p.m. HST

Maui Teams Fare Well At State Robotics Competition

HONOLULU – After the first day of the 2011 FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Robotics Competition sponsored by BAE Systems, which got underway today at the Stan Sheriff Center, the top 15:

1. Waialua High School
2. McKinley High School
3. Punahou School
4. Waiakea High School
5. Baldwin High School
6. Kapolei High School
7. Pearl City High School
8. Moanalua High School
9. Sacred Hearts Academy
10. Farrington High School
11. Waianae High School
12. Kalaheo High School
13. King Kekaulike High School
14. West Hawaii Explorations Academy
15. Mililani High School

Also during today’s competition, awards were handed out to:

• Maui High School: Excellence in Design Award - Sponsored by Autodesk
• Greater Syndey High Schools, Sydney, Australia: Imagery Award in Honor of Jack Kamen
• Waiakea High School: Innovation in Control Award - Sponsored by Rockwell Automation
• Baldwin High School: Creativity Award - Sponsored by Xerox
• McKinley High School: Engineering Excellence Award - Sponsored by Delphi
• Kalani High School: Entrepreneurship Award - Sponsored by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
• Pearl City High School: Rookie Inspiration Award
• Waialua High School: Website Award
• McKinley High School: Woodie Flowers Award for outstanding mentor, Ms. Elaine Owens

More than 1,000 students representing 33 public, private and charter schools from across the state, as well as Australia, are participating in the third annual Hawai‘i regional robotics competition, which tests students’ knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Top-performing teams will move on to the 2011 FIRST Robotics Championship at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, April 27-30.

In this year’s challenge named “LOGO MOTION”, two alliances of three teams compete on a 27-by-54-foot field with poles, and earn points by hanging as many triangle, circle and square logo pieces as possible. Bonus points are earned for each robot that can hang and assemble logo pieces to form the FIRST logo. Robots can also deploy Mini-Bots to climb vertical poles for a chance to earn additional points.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common engineering problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules. The competition allows students to apply academic knowledge and innovation, while developing teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking skills that will better prepare them to continue their education and enter the workforce.

The competition wraps up tomorrow, with qualifying rounds starting at 9:00 a.m., followed by final rounds beginning at 1:30 p.m. An awards ceremony is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

A schedule of the 2011 FIRST in Hawai‘i Regional Competition, list of participating teams, challenge overview and volunteer information are available at www.hawaiiiroc.org.

About Robotics Education in Hawai‘i

FIRST Robotics is one of six programs which are supported by the Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC), including FIRST, FIRST LEGO League, Underwater ROV, Botball, VEX Robotics and Micro Robotics.

Recognizing the importance of promoting robotics education at an early age and sustaining students’ interest in STEM education throughout their schooling, Hawai‘i’s six robotics programs joined together to form the Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee (ROC). The six of the robotics programs are coordinating efforts to promote robotics education in elementary, middle and high schools statewide.

To learn more about robotics education in Hawai‘i, visit the Hawai‘i Robotics Organizing Committee website at: www.hawaiiiroc.org.

(Report Provided by the Hawai'i Robotic Organizing Committee)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 5:05 p.m. HST

Brushfire Controlled in Kihei

 
FIRE! - Looking much more scary than it turned out to be, a brushfire in Kihei this afternoon burned at least three acres of grass and trees makai of Pi'ilani Highway but was quickly contained by Maui Fire crews. This unedited video shows the first crews on the scene keeping flames away from homes and people. (Maui TV News video)

Fire crews from at least four Maui Fire stations knocked down a brushfire that erupted this afternoon around 3:40 p.m. Maui Police closed a portion of Pi'ilani Highway as smoke obscured the vision of drivers. The blaze broke out between Keala and Kanani Roads. By 4:45 p.m. the fire was declared under control.

So far at least three acres have burned. At one point flames came within 50 yards of homes. Three engine companies, two tanker trucks and one ladder truck responded. Crews quickly surrounded the flames and - as they have in recent fires - quickly reduced danger to lives and property. Maui Police closed one southbound lane of Pi'ilani Highway to allow fire crews access to the scene. The only damage reported was thick brush and the hulks of rusted derelict cars dumped into the gulch long ago.

No word on the cause of the blaze. We will provide more details on the fire as soon as they are available. The Prince Kuhio holiday has made information access spotty.

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 1:30 p.m. HST

DOH Says Radiation Levels 'Millions of Times Below Concern'

Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had yet to identify the radiation that arrived here Monday from Japan, a state health official said yesterday he expects the isotopes that have been detected on the West Coast to be seen in Hawaii, and in similarly low levels.

Radioactive iodine, cesium and tellurium have been confirmed in California and Washington. California also registered xenon, and health officials in Colo­rado and Oregon say traces of iodine have been picked up.

Jeff Eckerd, acting program manager of the Hawaii Health Department's indoor and radiological health branch, said he expects to see the same isotopes here.

"After the first sample (confirmation) comes out, I think we'll start to see (radiation) numbers coming out of the EPA pretty much on a daily basis," Eckerd said.

The EPA emphasized that the radiation levels in California and Washington were "hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern."

"I think the numbers are going to be low (in Hawaii), and it will even get significantly lower because iodine-131, tellurium-132 and xenon are relatively short-lived — I mean hours to days," Eckerd said. "It will decay out rather quickly."

Cesium has a longer life, and Eckerd said the Health Department probably will be tracking trace amounts of radioactivity in Hawaii "for months if not longer."

The average person is exposed to about 620 millirems of radiation a year from a variety of sources. According to the American Nuclear Society, a chest X-ray is 10 millirems, flying in a jetliner results in 0.5 millirems per hour and radon in the air can reach 228 millirems a year.

Television and computer screens can mean exposure to 1 millirem, and food and water contribute 40 millirems per year.

Health experts said 35,000 millirems is the lowest exposure of ionizing radiation that could lead to mild changes in the blood. It would be necessary to receive 3,500 chest X-rays for that dose. The EPA reported that normal "background" gamma ray exposure rates for Oahu typically range between 0.005 and 0.020 millirems per hour.

The EPA?said the iodine-131 level detected in San Francisco was .0682 picocuries per meter cubed. It did not convert to millirems.

According to the agency, the threshold for shelter and evacuation to be "considered" for iodine-131 starts when people are subjected to 37 million picocuries per meter cubed in one hour, or 385,000 picocuries per meter cubed for 96 hours.

Eckerd said radiation that hit California on the jet stream might have swirled around in winds that hit Hawaii on Monday. He added that the delay in the EPA identifying the isotope that reached here might be due to a backlog of samples from the mainland that need to be identified.

"We really want to let people know we're tracking (the situation)," Eckerd said. "We don't expect this to happen, but if the situation escalates we will be notifying the public and they should listen to public health officials for any precautionary measures. But again, at this time we don't expect any harmful levels to reach Hawaii."

Reach William Cole at wcole@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 10 a.m. HST

Japan Quake Aid Coming From Unlikely Corner of Society

By Terril Yue Jones

TOKYO — Tons of relief goods have been delivered to victims of Japan's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami from a dark corner of society: the "yakuza" organized crime networks.

Yakuza groups have been sending trucks from the Tokyo and Kobe regions to deliver food, water, blankets and toiletries to evacuation centers in northeast Japan, the area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which have left at least 27,000 dead and missing.

Yakuza are better known for making money from extortion, gambling, pornography and prostitution, as well as for the often-elaborate tattoos covering much of their bodies.

But disasters bring out another side of yakuza, who move swiftly and quietly to provide aid to those most in need.

As with the devastating 1995 Kobe earthquake, government workers were slow in reaching afflicted areas and the 300,000 or so survivors, so yakuza groups stepped in and in many cases were first on the ground.

'Dropouts from society'
Experts on the gangs say such actions stem from yakuza knowing what it's like to have to fend for yourself, without any government or community support.

Many gang members faced discrimination and come from minority populations such as ethnic Koreans or are "burakumin" — those who work in businesses seen as related to death, such as butchers and leather tanners.

"Yakuza are dropouts from society," said Manabu Miyazaki, a prolific author who has written more than 100 books about yakuza and minorities.

"They've suffered, and they're just trying to help other people who are in trouble," said Miyazaki, himself the son of a former Kyoto yakuza boss.

Others see ulterior motives to the groups' charity.

"If they help citizens, it's hard for the police to say anything bad," said Tomohiko Suzuki, a journalist who has written several books on Japan's underworld.

"The yakuza are trying to position themselves to gain contracts for their construction companies for the massive rebuilding that will come."

One yakuza boss rejected such criticism.

"It takes too long for the arm of the government to reach out here so it's important to do it now," the Weekly Taishuu magazine, which specializes in yakuza affairs, quoted a top yakuza as saying.

"Our honest sentiment right now is to be of some use to people," said the boss, who declined to be identified.

Gangsters' code of giving
Yakuza groups have so far dispatched at least 70 trucks to the quake zone loaded with supplies worth more than $500,000, according to Jake Adelstein, an expert on yakuza who lives in Tokyo and is writing two books on the Japanese syndicates.

The gangs' charity is rooted in their "ninkyo" code, Adelstein says, which values justice and duty and forbids allowing others to suffer. "In times such as earthquakes, they put their money where their mouths are," he said.

Atsushi Mizoguchi a freelance writer and yakuza antagonizer who has written about organized crime for 40 years, also gives the yakuza the benefit of the doubt.

"Rather than a PR effort, I think it's actually good intentions," said Mizoguchi, who has angered the yakuza so much that he has been stabbed twice in attacks by gang members.

Adelstein explains that there is an informal understanding between yakuza and police who tolerate the gangs carrying out such charitable work, but not seeking publicity for it.

"What they seek most is self-satisfaction," said Miyazaki, the son of the former yakuza boss. "It's not for pay, but for pride."

There are an estimated 80,000 yakuza in Japan. The Sumiyoshi-kai and Inakawa-kai, the second and third biggest organized crime syndicates, are believed to be the most active in the earthquake-tsunami disaster relief.

'We don't talk'
In a phone call to the Inakawai-kai headquarters in Tokyo, a man from the gang's "general affairs division" brusquely told Reuters: "We don't talk." A faxed request to speak with the Inakawa-kai's No.2 leader went unanswered.

Part of the reason for the yakuzas' reluctance to receive attention stems from stepped-up enforcement after a 1992 anti-gang law and increased crackdowns by the National Police Agency over the past year, which have heightened anti-yakuza sentiment among the public.

But there have been no reports of donations being refused — perhaps because there is no indication who supplied them.

And, says author Suzuki, this is not the time to nitpick over the origins of emergency goods.

"When it's life or death, you don't care where your food comes from," he said.

(Report Provided by Reuters News Service)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 9:05 a.m. HST

Endangered Species Endangered Even More By Big Island Wildfire

National Park Service firefighters have spent the week trying to prevent a wildfire ignited by Kilauea volcano from spreading through a protected rain forest inhabited by endangered Hawaiian plants and animals.

Nearly 100 acres of the 2,750-acre east rift zone's special ecological area, a lowland rain forest, has already been destroyed in the fire ignited March 5 by an eruption at the Ka­moa­moa fissure.

The Napau wildfire on the east rift of the Big Island's Kilauea volcano has destroyed 2,076 acres about seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center since early March.

The special ecological area is the home of the endangered Hawaiian bat, Hawaiian hawk and other uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals such as the Hawaiian thrush, lama and sandalwood trees, happy face spiders, carnivorous caterpillars and Hawaiian honeycreepers, said Gary Wuchner, National Park Serv­ice fire information spokes­man. Some of the plants are found only in Hawaii.

Mardi Lane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokes­woman, described the area as "pristine."

"It best represents what Hawaii was and is a seed source for plants and refuge for birds," Lane said. "It is a living laboratory of Hawaiian plants and animals."

Firefighters will be working to keep flames from spreading beyond the 100 acres of the refuge on the northern perimeter of the fire, said Rhonda Loh, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park chief of natural resources management.

"It is the focal point of our fire crews," Loh said.

Wuchner said an infrared mapping flight showed the fire's fuel comprises "single logs, standing dead trees, stumps, roots and large dead areas of vegetation, and mostly on the southeast perimeter."

But there also is concern for the endangered plants and animals living in the southern Keala­komo and Naula Special Ecological Areas located south of the Chain of Craters Road, which reopened yesterday after being closed for two days because of the wildfire. A section of the road was closed about six miles from the visitor center at Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu.

Wuchner said fire crews were sent to scout the two areas yesterday.

Park Service firefighters were aided by rain in the area this week. However, firefighters were hampered yesterday by strong tradewinds with gusts up to 45 mph. Flames were visible along the south flank of the volcano's summit and Chain of Craters Road.

Helicopters have been shuttling Park Service firefighting crews and equipment into the fire area. At work are 43 Park Serv­ice firefighters from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; Whiskeytown National Recreation Area in California; Olympic and Yosemite national parks; the Pacific West Regional Office in Oakland; the National NPS Fire Office in Boise, Idaho; and the Eldorado, Sequoia, Stanislaus and Los Padres national forests in California.

Reach Gregg Kakesako at gkakesako@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 6:45 a.m. HST

More Details Released on O'ahu Dengue Fever Cases

Four people who live in the same Pearl City neighborhood are the first known Hawaii cases of locally contracted dengue fever since a 2001 outbreak in which 153 people were infected with the mosquito-borne viral illness, health officials announced yesterday.

A Pearl City woman who traveled to Wisconsin last month was hospitalized for high fever, among other symptoms, and was diagnosed with dengue fever after a blood test for the disease came back positive.

Also showing symptoms of the disease are two adults who are members of her family and their neighbor. None has traveled elsewhere.

Two cases are confirmed, and the other two are awaiting test results.

"It's certainly possible, given that we've found this cluster of four — two of whom were not diagnosed by their clinicians — it's entirely possible there were others," said state Epidemiologist Sarah Park. "You only need one person infected who has the virus in their blood and they get bit by a mosquito, and you have a mosquito that's infected."

Park likened it to drug users spreading disease by sharing dirty needles.

All prior known Hawaii cases of dengue since the outbreak a decade ago were imported, said Gary Gill, deputy director for environmental health.

No deaths have occurred, even during the 2001 outbreak.

The data show that from 2002 to 2009, cases ranged from three to 14 a year. One year had no cases.

"This is a good wake-up call for all of us, especially to us clinicians," said Park. "Mainland docs think we have dengue all the time. We generally say it's not endemic here."

Park said that after the woman went to the Wisconsin hospital with severe symptoms, the doctor surmised, "'Hmm, comes from Hawaii,' and did the dengue test."

The Health Department sent out a medical alert to Oahu physicians this week, advising them to consider the potential for dengue infection in those with compatible symptoms, to request laboratory testing and to report all suspected cases to the Health Department.

The symptoms usually start five to six days after a patient is bitten by an infected mosquito, but the onset can range from two to 15 days. Symptoms include a sudden fever, severe headaches, pain behind the eye, joint and muscle pain and rash — typically on hands, arms, legs and feet three to four days after the fever starts.

Park said the symptoms ranged in severity, with the youngest of the four Pearl City adults having the mildest symptoms.

Park expressed concern that people have been complaining of flulike symptoms might have had the disease. Usually a severe fever that "feels like your bone is breaking" accompanies the ailment, she said.

Younger children tend to have milder symptoms and might show none.

There is no vaccine for dengue fever. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used to reduce fever, but since bleeding can occur, aspirin and ibuprofen or naproxen (which can worsen bleeding problems) should not be used.

Dengue fever also can result in seizures. But just as the fever is resolving, it can progress to dengue hemorrhagic fever, Park said. This next stage is marked by abnormal bleeding and shock.

The disease is transmitted to humans by mosquitoes, which become infected after biting humans with the disease, and cannot be transmitted from human to human.

To prevent the disease from spreading, the Health Department advises people with dengue to remain indoors to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes and possibly pass the dengue to another person. The department also urges the public to remove standing water from places in their yards such as gutters, old tires and bromeliads where water collects, which could serve as mosquito breeding grounds.

"We expect to see tight concentrations of the disease and in small areas," said the Health Department's Gill.

The Health Department has sent out vector control, sanitation and epidemiology personnel to the 70 people in the Pearl City neighborhood. So far, 10 people have had their blood drawn for testing.

Health Department officials said they don't know whether there might have been prior cases of dengue fever transmitted by local exposure.

An infected mosquito can spread it not only to other humans, but among their pool and to their offspring, Park said.

Gill emphasized the species of mosquito in Hawaii that transmits the disease, Aedes albopictus, does so inefficiently.

In 2001 the disease was concentrated in East Maui, but confirmed cases were found on Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.

Health officials believed the virus was brought to Maui by visitors who had traveled to French Polynesia and the Samoas.

Prior to that, Hawaii's last major outbreak, with 1,200 cases, came at the end of World War II, resulting in several deaths.

Reach Leila Fujimori at lfujimori@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 25, 2011 6:35 a.m. HST

U.S. DOT Resumes Subsidies of Flights to Kalaupapa

The U.S. Department of Transportation has agreed to subsidize air service to and from Kalaupapa.

Federal officials said Thursday they will help fund air service for the Hawaiian leprosy settlement and choose an air carrier through a competitive bidding process.

The call for bids will include a subsidy which could reduce current airfares between Honolulu and the former Molokai colony as much as 60 percent.

Sen. Daniel Inouye says Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hopes to have an air carrier ready by summer.

Federal funds will also go toward buying a ramp and other equipment to help patients and residents with disabilities.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 5:55 p.m. HST

Tsunami Damage Totals $30.6 Million in Hawai'i

Honolulu – Governor Neil Abercrombie today formally requested an Administrative Disaster Declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help Hawai'i Island homeowners, renters, businesses and nonprofits affected by the tsunami that swept across the state on March 11, 2011.

Work is also underway on a request to President Obama for a Presidential Disaster Declaration. This declaration would enable counties (Hawai'i County, Maui County, and the City and County of Honolulu) damaged by the Honshu (Tohoku) Tsunami to recoup some of the costs of rebuilding and repairing damaged public infrastructure, such as buildings and harbors.

Governor Abercrombie asked the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide low-interest disaster loans to private individuals, businesses and nonprofits on Hawai'i Island to repair or replace materials damaged from the tsunami. Damages sustained on the other islands did not qualify for disaster loans under SBA guidelines.

“These are follow-up steps to help those affected by the tsunami. When I visited places that were hard hit like the Big Island, the first step was already being done and that is the sharing of the aloha spirit and communities pulling together to take care of one another,” said Governor Abercrombie. “We are looking at every option that may be available to provide financial assistance to those who need it.”

The State Civil Defense is also coordinating with state and county agencies to open a Disaster Assistance and Recovery Center at the Old Kona Airport Event Pavilion, located at 75-5530 Kuakini Highway, from Tuesday, March 29 to Wednesday, March 30 at 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. State agencies and community groups will be there to answer questions from residents and businesses affected by the tsunami on a wide range of programs and services.

According to estimates reported to the State Civil Defense, the preliminary damage estimates from the tsunami that hit Hawai'i after the Honshu earthquake in Japan totals $30.6 million.


Government Damage Estimates Reported:
Hawai'i County $2.3 million
Maui County $2.7 million
City and County of Honolulu $3.4 million
Kaua'i County $60,400

Total Public Infrastructure Damages $8.5 million

Damages to Businesses and Residents:
West Hawai'i businesses $13.5 million
Hawai'i Island homes $2.5 million
Maui County homes $600,000
Private Property (including boats) $5.5 million

Residents and business owners should report any damage to their property, home or business to Aloha United Way by dialing 2-1-1 (Monday through Friday) or to the State Civil Defense toll free line at 855-211-7456 (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). Aloha United Way’s 2-1-1 operators will record damage reports and refer them to the proper agencies. The 2-1-1 line is taking calls Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information visit http://hawaii.gov/gov.

(Report Provided by the Office of Governor Neil Abercrombie)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 1:35 p.m. HST

DOH Investigating Four Dengue Fever Cases on O'ahu

HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) is investigating two confirmed cases and two suspected cases of Oahu residents who became ill with dengue fever in late February. All four adults have recovered and are no longer ill. Based on the ongoing investigation, the four cases appear to be related and were infected near their homes by mosquitoes.

“The Department of Health immediately began precautionary measures by conducting additional testing, surveying and developing a mosquito control plan for the specific areas where these four individuals were likely infected,” said Interim Health Director Loretta Fuddy. “We need the public’s help to clean up mosquito breeding areas throughout Oahu by emptying all standing water, and checking gutters and other areas that collect water.”

The DOH sent out a medical alert to Oahu physicians earlier this week advising them to consider potential dengue infection in persons with compatible symptoms, request appropriate laboratory testing, and report all suspected cases to the DOH.

Oahu residents and visitors are also advised to protect themselves against mosquito bites by applying repellant containing DEET (20-30%) or picaridin to skin and clothing; repairing window and door screens to keep mosquitoes from entering indoors; and wearing darker clothing that covers and protects skin from biting mosquitoes.

Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by the Aedes mosquito that occurs primarily in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The illness is characterized by sudden onset of high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, nausea, vomiting and rash. Younger children tend to have a milder illness than older children and adults and may show no symptoms. Symptoms may last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take two to four weeks. Treatment consists of rest, fluids, and medications to reduce fever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Aspirin should not be used to treat a dengue patient.

Those with high fever in addition to any of the symptoms for dengue fever should see their doctor for evaluation. Dengue is transmitted through mosquitoes which become infected by biting persons with fever and then pass on that infection by biting another person. It is important that infected people with fever stay indoors to ensure they are not bitten by mosquitoes and indirectly pass on the infection.

More information on Denue Fever is available on the Department of Health Web site:
http://hawaii.gov/health/DIB/Dengue.html

(Report Provided by the State of Hawai'i, Department of Health)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 11:45 a.m. HST

Road Projects to Affect Traffic on Lana'i and Maui

WAILUKU, Maui, Hawaii – The Department of Public Works today announced the following projects beginning on Monday, March 28 2011:

Lanai District Resurfacing
Contractor - Lanai Builders, Inc.

Scope of Work - This project involves cold planing; installing an overlay of asphalt; installing pavement markings and striping; adjusting utilities as required; and other incidental items.
(Streets involved: Gay St.-Kaumalapau Hwy to Eighth St., Tenth St.-Fraser Ave. to Ilima Ave.)

When: March 28, 2011 to May 25, 2011

Please advise the public to proceed with caution as there will be lane closures, one lane closed during construction.


Speed Humps FY '10

Contractor - JM Paving Services, LLC

Scope of Work-This project involves constructing new speed humps in various areas island-wide; pavement striping and markers; and other incidental items.
(Streets Involved: Alohi Place, Aliikoa Place and Kehala Drive)

When: March 28, 2011 - Completion Date: May 10, 2011
(Contract days-30 working days)

Please advise the public to proceed with caution as there will be lane closures, one lane closed during construction.

(Report Provided by the Maui County Office of Information)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 10:35 a.m. HST

State Water Commission Openings Still Available

HONOLULU -- The Commission on Water Resource Management is extending its nomination period until Wednesday, April 6, 2011. The original application period (October 17 - November 22, 2010) ended before Governor Neil Abercrombie took office.

After being sworn in, Governor Abercrombie actively encouraged members of the public to come forward and serve on public boards and commissions. Subsequently, the Governor's office received a number of recommendations for the Commission.

To provide the broadest range of potential candidates in the Abercrombie Administration, the Commission is extending the time to receive nominations.

The Governor's selection will be subject to confirmation by the Hawaii State Senate. Commissioners will serve a four-year term from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2015.

Nomination application forms are available on the Commission website:
http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/cwrm/aboutus_commission.htm#apply For more information call (808) 587-0216.

Please submit completed application forms by April 6 to:
Commission on Water Resource Management,
1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 227
Honolulu, Hawaii. 96813
Ph (808) 587-0214
Fax (808) 587-0219
email: dlnr.cwrm@hawaii.gov
Attn: Susan Danbara

(Report Provided by the State of Hawai'i, Department of Land and Natural Resources)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 10:25 a.m. HST

Sloppy East Waves to 12 Feet Through Friday Evening

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has extended the HIGH SURF ADVISORY for EAST FACING SHORES of MOLOKAI and MAUI now in effect until 6:00 p.m. Friday.

A High Surf Advisory means that high surf will affect beaches in the advisory area, producing rip currents and localized beach erosion.

2. EFFECTS: Strong to near gale force trade winds will continue to generate rough and choppy waves along east facing shores.

Rough surf will be 8 to 12 feet today, lowering to 6 to 10 feet tonight and Friday.

Forecast surf heights are estimates of the height of the face or front of waves.

A high tide of approximately 2.0 feet is expected between 7:18 p.m. and 8:36 p.m. this evening. The next high tide of approximately 1.9 feet is expected between 9:08 p.m. and 10:26 p.m. tomorrow evening.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: BEACH GOERS ARE URGED TO STAY OUT OF THE WATER AND WELL AWAY FROM THE SHORE BREAK DUE TO THE HAZARDOUS WAVE ACTION AND STRONG RIP CURRENTS.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 9:15 a.m. HST

Gales Blowing in Channels, Land Gusts Up To 50 MPH

1. EVENT: The National Weather Service in Honolulu has continued the WIND ADVISORY for Maui County in effect until 6:00 p.m. this evening.

A Wind Advisory means that winds of 30 mph and gusts of 50 mph are expected.

2. EFFECTS: High pressure north of the Islands will continue to produce strong and gusty trade winds.

East winds will be 20 to 30 mph, with frequent gusts up to 50 mph. The strong and gusty winds will be widespread, but the winds will be especially strong through valleys, over ridges and mountain tops, and where they accelerate downslope over the leeward sides of the islands.

3. PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES: WINDS THIS STRONG CAN MAKE DRIVING DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY FOR HIGH PROFILE VEHICLES. USE EXTRA CAUTION. SECURE ANY LOOSE OBJECTS THAT MAY BECOME AIRBORNE OR MOVE THEM INDOORS. BE ALERT FOR FALLING TREE BRANCHES AND LOCAL POWER OUTAGES.

4. INFORMATION: Maui County Civil Defense will continue to monitor the situation. Please listen to your local radio and TV stations or NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts for any updates.

NOAA Weather Broadcasts can be reached by calling 1-866-944-5025. NOAA Weather Internet services can be found at www.prh.noaa.gov/hnl.

Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System (AIS) by calling 986-1200. The same information is available on the Maui County website at www.mauicounty.gov.

(Report Provided by Maui County Civil Defense)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 8:05 a.m. HST

Firefighters on Big Isle Battle to Save Rain Forest

National Park Service firefighters have spent the week trying to prevent the wild fire ignited by Kilauea Volcano from spreading through a protected rain forest that is inhabited by endangered Hawaiian plants and animals.

Nearly 100 acres of the 2,750-acre east rift zone's special ecological area, an intact lowland rain forest, have already destroyed in the fire ignited March 5 by an eruption at the Kamoamoa fissure.

As of today, the Napau wildfire on the east rift zone of the Big Island's Kilauea volcano has destroyed 2,000 acres approximately seven miles southeast of the Kilauea Visitor Center.

The area is the home of the endangered Hawaiian bat, Hawaiian hawk, and other uniquely Hawaiian plants and animals such as Hawaiian thrush, lama and sandalwood trees, happy face spiders, carnivorous caterpillars, and Hawaiian honeycreepers said Gary Wuchner, National Park Service fire information spokesman.

Mardi Lane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, described the area as "pristine."

"It best represents what Hawaii was and is a seed source for plants and refuge for birds," Lane said.

"It is a living laboratory of Hawaiian plants and animals."

Firefighters will be working to keep flames from spreading beyond the 100 acres of the refuge, said Rhonda Loh, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park chief of natural resources management.

"It is the focal point of our fire crews," Loh said.

Wuchner said an infrared mapping flight "shows most of the fire are single logs,standing dead trees, stumps, and large dead areas of vegetation...."

National Park Service firefighters were aided by rain in the area Wednesday.

The Napau hiking trail, which begins at the Chain or Craters Road, winds through the refuge.

Firefighters are being hampered by strong gusty trade winds with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Flames were visible along the south flank and Chain of Craters Road.

Helicopters have been shuttling National Park Service firefighting crews and equipment into the fire area. Forty Park Service firefighters from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, Olympic and Yosemite National Parks, the Pacific West Regional Office of NPS, National NPS Fire Office in Boise and the Eldorado, Sequoia, Stanislaus and Los Padres National Forests are being used.

Wuchner said the firefighters may have to camp out near the fire line for safety reasons to reduce the number of helicopter flights.

Helicopter bucket drops are helping to cool hotspots and slow the fire's forward progress.

The Chain of Craters Road was closed approximately 6 miles from the visitor center at Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu.

Reach Gregg Kakesako at gkakesako@staradvertiser.com.

(Report Provided by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 7:15 a.m. HST

Aloha State in Top 5 - in Tax Collections

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Hawaii tax collections grew at the fifth-highest rate in the nation last fiscal year.

Hawaii tax collections rose by 2.66 percent in the 2010 fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year, behind only North Dakota, North Carolina, Nevada and California.

Despite the increase, Hawaii is still facing projected budget shortfalls of nearly $1 billion over the next two fiscal years.

Nationwide, the Census said state government tax collections dropped 2 percent last fiscal year.

Hawaii was one of 11 states to report increases over the previous year's total tax collections, up from five states in 2009.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 24, 2011 6:45 a.m. HST

Club CPO Says Fire Won't Deter Mission in Paukukalo

WAILUKU >> Officials with the Boys and Girls Club in Paukukalo say a fire that destroyed equipment in a storage container won't affect the youth program operated at the Paukukalo Hawaiian Homes Community Center.

Colin Hanlon, chief professional officer of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Maui, estimated the loss of the container and its contents after Monday's fire would be about $10,000 to $15,000.

The container was used to store sports supplies, furnishings and art.

Hanlon told The Maui News that athletic gear and other equipment from other Boys and Girls Clubs would be used in the Paukukalo program until the equipment can be replaced.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation, but Maui police say witnesses said two children were playing with fireworks in the area before the fire was reported.

(Report Provided by The Associated Press)

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NEWS FLASH - March 23, 2011 8:55 p.m. HST

Community Kokua Needed to Help at Ancient Fishpond

A workday is planned for tsunami damaged fishpond in Kihei, Ko'ie'ie, on Saturday, March 26, 8am-10am. This is a cultural event and the entire community is invited to participate... just as in ancient times. The location is at Kalepolepo Park, right next to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary: 726 South Kihei Road.

Watch Kimokeo Kapahulehua's personal appeal for your kokua.

(Report Provided by Bob Richardson)

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