Archive for the ‘Hawaii’ Category

Illegal Immigrant, or the Next Celebrity Chef?

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

Perhaps no issue has revealed our inner divisions more than the question of immigration in general and illegal immigration in particular. A Senate committee has passed an immigration measure that would create a guest worker program and a path for undocumented immigrants in the country to earn full permanent resident status, provided they pay back taxes and fines. This contrasts with a House measure that seeks to make illegal immigration a felony. Critics of the guest worker measure call it an amnesty for illegal immigration.

Call it what you want, but I completely agree with Michael Stickings at The Moderate Voice, who calls for an immigration policy that is generous, fair, and flexible:

To be sure, something needs to be done about “illegal” (or “undocumented”) immigration, but I must say this: Let America’s policy towards these immigrants be generous, fair, and flexible. Do not punish them for having chosen to come to America. Offer them an opportunity to settle, legally, for good. If they work, if they pay their taxes, if they accept the American way of life and want to be a part of it, indeed, if they are already American, broadly speaking, be generous to them. They only want to live their lives in Lincoln’s last, best hope, in a nation of immigrants that has historically welcomed the tired, the poor, the huddled masses who have yearned for the chance to start anew, to make a better life for themselves and their families.

These new Americans want to breathe free. Let them.

As an example of the above, consider the story of Hawaii’s most famous “illegal immigrant.”

A young Thai man by the name of Chai came to Hawaii on a tourist visa, and opened two restaurants in Honolulu. However, his attempt to get a green card was denied because the INS declared his marriage to be a sham. While he appealed his case to the INS, he became one of the best known chefs in Hawaii.

His immigration problems came to a head in 2001, when, after returning to Hawaii after visiting his ill father in Thailand, he was taken into custody and prepared for deportation. It took petitions by his fellow isle chefs and ultimately action by Sen. Daniel Akaka to partially settle the matter. Akaka introduced private legislation that would essentially overrule the immigration service and make Chef Chai a permanent resident. The bill has never yet come to a vote, but Akaka has vowed to keep introducing the bill until it passes. Meanwhile, Chef Chai continues to cook, constantly considering the chance that he may yet be deported. Should that happen, the Hawaii culinary scene will never be the same.

Of course, we have immigration laws for a reason, and by all means, they should be enforced, preferably before said immigrant is in the country. But in the final analysis, though, I believe that before we start branding undocumented immigrants as criminals once they’re in the country, that we stop and think…are we turning away the next Emeril Lagasse?

They’re here. They ain’t leavin’. Let’s deal with them and move on.

Finally, A Record Setting Month Approaches Its End

Monday, March 27th, 2006

The weather service says that several areas have received record levels of rainfall for March. Lihue has received more rain this month than in any month on record.

But fortunately, the forecasters see light at the end of the tunnel:

WEDNESDAY NIGHT A STRONG SHORTWAVE ROUNDS THE UPPER LOW TO THE WEST
AND MOVES THROUGH THE ISLAND CHAIN BRINING POSSIBLY ANOTHER ROUND OF
ROUGH WEATHER TO THE REGION. WAVES CONTINUE THROUGH SATURDAY TO
EJECT THE UPPER LOW OVER THE STATE FOR CONTINUED WET WEATHER.

IF THE LONG RANGE GFS IS RIGHT THE UPPER LOW WILL BE KICKED OUT OF
THE REGION…AND BACK TO REGULARLY SCHEDULED TRADE WIND WEATHER.

So the weather is expected to stick around for another three days or so. And we’re in the 37th day of this weather pattern we’ve been seeing. That makes…no, it couldn’t be. Too much of a coincidence. Or could it?

OK, Now I’ve Heard Everything…A Tornado? (UPDATED)

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

In Hawaii?

BULLETIN – EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
TORNADO WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HONOLULU HI
930 PM HST THU MAR 23 2006

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN HONOLULU HAS ISSUED A

  • TORNADO WARNING FOR…THE ISLAND OF LANAI IN MAUI COUNTY
  • UNTIL 1000 PM HST
  • AT 928 PM HST…RADAR INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF
    PRODUCING A TORNADO 8 MILES SOUTHWEST OF LANAI CITY…OR ABOUT 37
    MILES WEST OF KAHULUI…MOVING NORTHEAST AT 20 MPH.
  • THE TORNADO IS EXPECTED TO BE NEAR…LANAI CITY BY 940 PM HST

THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE DURING A TORNADO IS IN A BASEMENT. GET UNDER A
WORKBENCH OR OTHER PIECE OF STURDY FURNITURE. IF NO BASEMENT IS
AVAILABLE…SEEK SHELTER ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF THE BUILDING IN AN
INTERIOR HALLWAY OR ROOM SUCH AS A CLOSET. USE BLANKETS OR PILLOWS TO
COVER YOUR BODY AND ALWAYS STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS.

IF IN MOBILE HOMES OR VEHICLES…EVACUATE THEM AND GET INSIDE A
SUBSTANTIAL SHELTER. IF NO SHELTER IS AVAILABLE…LIE FLAT IN THE
NEAREST DITCH OR OTHER LOW SPOT AND COVER YOUR HEAD WITH YOUR HANDS.

UPDATE 11:11 p.m.: Fortunately, there was apparently some high winds, lightning, and thunder, but no actual tornado. Forecasters had noticed rotation in the thunderstorm that passed over Lanai, which triggered the warning.

What’s That Strange Color?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2006

Yesterday, people in Hawaii saw an unusual color in the sky, a color that they hadn’t seen in quite a while.

Blue.

Yes, there was clear blue sky for most of yesterday as Hawaii had a chance to dry out a bit after the record-setting rain we’ve been having. But no sooner had the day ended than the state was put under a flash flood watch yet again.

No End to Yucky Weather in Sight

Sunday, March 19th, 2006

While Kauai tries to keeps its damaged dams from breaking once more, the heavy stuff is now reaching Oahu. Oahu is now under a flash flood warning until 2:00 p.m.

The state remains under a flash flood watch until Monday afternoon, but the weather services believes that more wet stuff is coming:

MODERATE TO HEAVY SHOWERS PERSIST ACROSS SOUTHEAST PORTIONS OF THE
BIG ISLAND. ADDITIONAL HEAVY SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS ARE CURRENTLY
BLOSSOMING OVER AND AROUND OAHU AS WELL…AND SIGNIFICANT SHOWERS
CAN ALSO BE SEEN ALONG THE SOUTHERN SLOPES OF MOUNT HALEAKALA. THESE
CONDITIONS WILL CONTINUE OVER ALL THE ISLANDS THROUGH THE DAY AND
INTO THE COMING WEEK AS A MID AND UPPER LEVEL TROUGH OF LOW PRESSURE
PERSISTS TO OUR WEST. CONVERGENT SURFACE WINDS WITHIN A SURFACE
TROUGH OVER THE CENTRAL ISLANDS WILL HELP SUPPORT STRONG CONVECTION
GENERATED BY THE LIFTING EFFECT OF UPPER LEVEL DIVERGENCE AROUND
THE SOUTHEASTERN PERIPHERY OF THE UPPER/MID-LEVEL TROUGH TO THE
WEST OF THE MAIN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS. THE ATMOSPHERE OVER THE ISLANDS
REMAINS RIPE FOR THUNDERSTORMS WITH HEAVY RAINFALL AND POSSIBLE
FLASH FLOODING.

LATEST GFS75 BRINGS PULSES OF HEAVY RAINFALL TO THE ISLANDS OVER THE
COMING WEEK. TODAY…WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY ARE THE DAYS THESE PULSES
ARRIVE…COINCIDING WITH THE FORECAST FORMATION AND PASSAGE OF SHORT
WAVES ALOFT. THE FORECAST CALLS FOR THE POSSIBILITY OF HEAVY
RAINFALL AND THUNDERSTORMS THROUGH TODAY. A FLASH FLOOD WATCH
REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH MONDAY EVENING. SHORTER TERM WARNING AND
ADVISORY PRODUCTS ARE BEING ISSUED AS NEEDED FOR THE LOCALLY HEAVY
RAIN WHICH COULD LEAD TO FLOODING ON THE SATURATED AREAS OF THE
INDIVIDUAL ISLANDS. STAY TUNED TO NOAA WEATHER RADIO FOR ISSUANCE
FOR YOUR AREA.

Still More Rain, Still More Drama on Kauai

Thursday, March 16th, 2006

Heavy rain continues to fall on Kauai, which is under a flash flood warning until 7:45 PM HST tonight. A round-up of the day’s action on Kauai in the aftermath of the Kaloko Dam break:

  • The male body found shortly after Tuesday’s dam break has been identified as that of Alan Dingwall. Still no word yet as to the identity of the second body.
  • Waikomo Stream, into which the Waita Reservoir near Koloa empties, has overflowed its banks. Officials have started voluntary evacuations in Koloa, Kalaheo, and Waimea, all on the south shore of the island.
  • Workers continue to drain water from Morita Reservoir, downstream of compromised Kaloko Reservoir. Eventually, Mayor Bryan Baptiste would like the dam to be dismantled.
  • Gov. Linda Lingle intends to ask the Legislature tomorrow for emergency funds for cleanup, recovery, and investigation of the dam break.
  • State civil defense officials intend to perform emergency inspections of all dams, including those on private property.

Elsewhere around the blogosphere:

An entry from a high school friend of Aurora Fehring.

Vraxxlog:

Even when we try to be cautious and protective of our resources it seems that the best knowledge is still only available in hindsight. Hopefully the state gets ahead of the game sooner rather than later, as estimates are that a second dam will burst soon.

The dam break has caused one blogger to cancel her vacation to Kauai.

Aaron at Lifelike Pundits uses the story to sarcastically take a swipe at people who criticize President Bush.

More to come, if I can slog through the mindless blog-o-bots listed on Technorati that do nothing more than just parrot the stories published online…a rant on this would an entry in itself.

More on the Kaloko Reservoir Disaster

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
  • A second body has been recovered from the waters off Kilauea Bay. from a nearby streambed. (corrected 3/16/06 12:00pm)
  • One lane of Kuhio Highway has now been re-opened, ending the day-long isolation of the north shore of Kauai.
  • You can make a donation to the Red Cross relief effort by going to http://www.hawaiiredcross.org. (Be careful that you go to hawaiiredcross.org and NOT hawaiiredcross.com; the latter may send you to pop-up hell when you click your back button.)

Today’s stories about the disaster:

Could the Dambreak Have Been Prevented? Part 1

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006

The water from Kaloko Reservoir had no sooner started to rage than the fingers have started to point. The question is simple: could the Kaloko Reservoir dam break on Kauai been prevented? Sure it could have. But then from there the question become: Who do we blame for it?

My own answer: no one. Not yet, at least.

There are two main schools of thought here, and there is no doubt some overlap. I’ll cover one here.

Did construction near the reservoir led to its collapse? User LikaNui at HawaiiThreads has dredged up some dirt (so to speak) that seems to suggest that the disaster that happened today may not have just been bad luck and heavy rains, but something that could have been prevented. And commenter Bill Moake concurs.

Some background: Retired Hawaii auto dealer James Pflueger decided that certain parts of his land were too steep, so he set about grading them. The only thing is that he failed to get the necessary permits and guidance from the EPA under the Clean Water Act. As a result, runoff from the site flowed into nearby Pilaa Beach and polluted the bay. Certain environmental interests, and the EPA, were not happy, to put it mildly.

In all, Pflueger has had to pay over $12 million in claims and fines. The EPA called it the largest single settlement against a single landowner regarding a single site.

The connection: Pflueger had apparently done some grading work around Kaloko Reservoir without the proper permits. Yes, the same Kaloko Reservoir that burst yesterday. The two major papers both mentioned this fact in their reports, but the jury’s still out as to whether it was THE cause of the break. At first glance, the EPA doesn’t think so:

“We don’t believe the failure of the dam is related to any of the work done by Pflueger in that area,” said Dean Higuchi, spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one of the many agencies that announced Pflueger’s $7.5 million settlement March 9.

But I’m sure this is not going to be the final word on the matter. Nor should it. It’s definitely worth investigating. But not now.

Of course, more investigation is needed here as to the cause of the dam breaking. Maybe it could just be the rains…we’ve received as much rain in the past three weeks as we would normally get in the first three months of the year. But there’ll be time enough to cry over spilled milk…uh, water. Let’s let the emergency responders do their job first.

Kauai Dam Bursts: Seven Still Missing (UPDATED)

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006

(originally written 3/14/06 7:13 p.m.)

And now, our weather woes have gone national.

An earthen dam on Kauai, most likely weakened by heavy rains, broke this morning at around 5:30 without warning, turning 300 million gallons of water from the Kaloko Reservoir into a 150-yard wide river of water tumbling downhill, destroying everything in its path. One person has been confirmed dead, and as many as seven people are still missing.

It’s hard to believe that this disaster may cause more loss of life than even Hurricane Iniki. Four of the six people killed during Iniki were from Kauai. We may have as many as eight dead there, maybe more.

The water forced the closure of Kuhio Highway on Kauai’s north shore, stranding many residents and tourists. Mayor Bryan Baptiste has declared an emergency.

Stories about the dam break:

UPDATE 3/14/06 8:52 p.m.: Reading the stories again, the dam breached between 5:30 and 6:00. Updated to reflect. Search and rescue teams have been activated and sent to Kauai. Also, a fund has been set up to help victims of the flood. Details here.

UPDATE 3/14/06 10:11 p.m.: KHON is reporting that officials are saying that nearby Morita Reservoir is overflowing, as a chain reaction. The Waita Reservoir on the south shore is also being watched closely, as a dam breach or overtop would subject Koloa to flash flooding as well.

“Here Comes the Rain Again…”

Monday, March 13th, 2006

Goodness. Maybe it’s time I took a vacation to someplace dry, like Seattle. The weather would probably be marginally better than it is here.

As if the soaking that we got a week and a half ago wasn’t enough, a soaking that the residents of the windward coast of Oahu are still mopping up from, there’s more wet stuff headed our way.

THE FLASH FLOOD WATCH CONTINUES FOR

  • ALL THE MAIN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS
  • THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON
  • A DEVELOPING LOW ALOFT WILL BRING HEAVY RAINFALL AND THE THREAT OF FLASH FLOODING TO ALL OF THE MAIN HAWAIIAN ISLANDS THIS WEEK.
  • WIDESPREAD HEAVY RAIN IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN TONIGHT AFFECTING ALL ISLANDS.

A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. TAKE PRECAUTIONS NOW TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY. BE PREPARED TO TAKE QUICK ACTION IF A WARNING IS ISSUED OR YOU OBSERVE HEAVY
RAIN.

REPORT FLOODING TO POLICE OR CIVIL DEFENSE OFFICIALS FOR RELAY TO THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE.

THIS WATCH WILL BE UPDATED AT 4 AM TUESDAY MORNING…OR SOONER IF NECESSARY.

And just yesterday, Mother Nature decided that the leeward coast should suffer too. A freak gust of wind blowing down off the Waianae mountains blew down 13 utility poles in Nanakuli, some of which crushed passing cars. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. Farrington Highway was closed for the rest of the afternoon and evening, while emergency crews from Hawaiian Electric worked on repairing the broken poles. Props to the military for opening the road going over Kolekole Pass to bypass the obstruction. But after several incidents that have closed Farrington in the past, it’s time to consider some way to provide some bypasses.

I pity the people who chose this week to vacation here in Hawaii. This is definitely not the typical Hawaiian weather they were expecting.