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In Brief | Big Island & State | 11-14-13

Monk seal birth prompts early closure of North Kohala park

North Kohala’s Keokea Beach Park will close at 7:30 p.m. nightly to protect an endangered Hawaiian monk seal pup and its mother.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration requested the department implement the early closure after the pup was born at the park.

Both NOAA and the department ask the public to keep a distance from Hawaiian monk seals, which are protected by both federal and state laws. Anyone who intentionally harasses, harms or kills a Hawaiian monk seal could be fined up to $50,000 and ordered to serve a five-year prison sentence.

New permits for Keokea Beach Park’s pavilions will list a 7 p.m. closing time to give users time to leave. The park will continue to be closed at 7:30 p.m. until further notice.

Flash flood watch remains in effect for Hawaii Island

A flash flood watch remains in effect for Hawaii Island through this afternoon.

Deep moisture moving over the islands from the south under unstable conditions will produce a threat of heavy showers and thunderstorms, according to the National Weather Service. The Big Island was forecast to see the greatest chance of flooding rain Wednesday night and early this morning.

A flash flood watch means that conditions may develop that lead to flash flooding, according to the service, which also noted that it does not have to be raining heavily in an area for flash flooding to occur there.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources said it closed the Waimanu Trail in North Kohala on Tuesday afternoon until further notice. All camping permits have been canceled.

Police arrest 34 for suspected DUI

Police arrested 34 drivers between Nov. 4 and Sunday for suspected drunken driving; eight were involved in traffic crashes; two were younger than 21.

There have been 1,135 suspected DUI arrests this year compared with 1,265 during the same period last year, according to the Hawaii County Police Department.

Kona officers arrested 22 motorists while South Hilo officers arrested seven. South Kohala officers arrested three motorists while Puna and Hamakua officers arrested one in each district.

There have been 1,152 major accidents this year compared with 1,267 during the same period last year. To date, there have been 23 traffic fatalities compared with 36 at this time in 2012. Five of those fatalities have been attributed to drugs, two to alcohol and six to a combination of drugs and alcohol.

High surf warning remains in effect

A high surf warning remains in effect for the Big Island’s north- and east-facing shores through 6 p.m. today. Some north-facing shores along the North Kona coast will also see high surf.

A very large north swell fueling the waves is expected to decline today, but will remain elevated and dangerous, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

The service forecast waves ranging in height from 10 to 15 feet along the island’s north- and east-facing shores. A portion of the Kona coastline, from Keahole Point to Kiholo Bay, is also forecast to see high surf, though not as high as is expected along the Hamakua Coast, from Upolu Point in North Kohala to Richardson Beach Park in Hilo, according to forecasters.

The service categorized the surf’s impact as “very high,” warning that waves may sweep across portions of beaches, roadways, coastal benches and lava flows. The National Weather Service also warned of powerful longshore and rip currents and that breaking waves may impact harbors making navigating harbor channels dangerous. It further cautioned inexperienced swimmers to remain out of the water and off beaches and adjacent beachfront areas.

Police investigate Hilo robbery

A 43-year-old Hilo woman reported to police Tuesday she was robbed Nov. 4 in Hilo. The victim, who was not injured, said she was walking with a bicycle on Mililani Street, between Piilani and Hualani streets around 9 a.m., when a man approached her and demanded money, according to the Hawaii County Police Department. The man threatened her and fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.

The man was described as “local,” between 5 feet 10 and 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a muscular build, dark brown eyes, very short black hair and a tan complexion, according to police. He was wearing surf shorts and a dirty blue tank top.

Anyone with information about this incident or the identity of the person depicted in the forensic artist’s composite drawing should call the department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311 or contact Detective Grant Todd at 961-2385 or gtodd@co.hawaii.hi.us. Those who prefer to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 329-8181 in Kona or 961-8300 in Hilo. All Crime Stoppers information is kept confidential.

County office moving to new building

The Hawaii County Department of Environmental Management Solid Waste Division Administrative Office will be closed Friday to allow time for staff to move to a new location. The office includes the Recycling Section and Abandoned Vehicles Program.

The office will reopen Monday in the Department of Water Supply Building located at 345 Kekuanaoa St., Suite B, in Hilo. This will also be the new mailing address. All telephone numbers for the office, section and program will remain the same.

Small craft advisory extended for Big Island

The National Weather Service in Honolulu has extended a small craft advisory for waters off Hawaii Island effective through 6 p.m. today.

Forecasters said the advisory was prompted by a large north swell producing rough seas. The service forecast northeast winds reaching 5 to 15 knots — 6 to 17 mph. Rough seas of 7 to 15 feet are also expected.

A small craft advisory means that wind speeds of 25 to 33 knots — 29 to 38 mph — and/or seas are expected to be 10 feet or greater and expected to produce conditions hazardous to small craft, according to the service. Inexperienced mariners, especially those operating smaller vessels, should avoid navigating in such conditions.

Coast Guard searching for overboard cruise ship passenger

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a 30-year-old woman reported overboard from a cruise ship located approximately 750 miles northeast of Hilo, according to the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District in Honolulu.

The Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center was notified about 1 p.m. Wednesday by the crew of the Grand Princess that the woman, identified as an American, was overboard. She was last seen around noon, according to the Coast Guard.

The cruise ship has since changed course and is searching for the missing passenger, according to the Coast Guard. An HC-130 Hercules airplane crew was deployed from Air Station Barber’s Point to assist in the search.

State homeless numbers fall slightly

HONOLULU — The number of homeless Hawaii residents receiving assistance from public agencies fell slightly in the last three years, but advocates say a strong need remains for affordable low-income housing.

A study by the University of Hawaii at Manoa and the state Department of Human Services concluded that homeless families and individuals had shorter stays in shelters and more found permanent housing, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

“Our homeless situation is not worsening,” said lead author Sarah Yuan, an associate specialist with the university’s Center on the Family.

However, policymakers must aggressively work to help families climb above the poverty line, Yuan said.

“We still have people, constantly, continuously falling into this homeless situation,” she said. “There is a misconception that a lot of people … they just stay homeless and they refuse help, and they’re utilizing the state’s resources.”

The study, conducted every year since 2006, recorded 13,639 people who received help from a homeless outreach program in fiscal year 2013. That was 2.4 percent fewer than the previous year.

The number who stayed at a publicly funded shelter increased by 2.2 percent. Yuan said that means more homeless people moved off the streets and into emergency and transitional shelters where it’s more likely they could find permanent homes.

The average stay in a transitional shelter fell by 21 days, to 224 days.

About 31 percent of the 1,536 families managed to find permanent housing in 2013, compared with 23 percent in 2012.

About 42 percent of the people served in 2013 were “new” homeless who had not been recorded in previous reports. Another 16 percent were repeat clients who had relied on services for more than a year.

Jun Yang, director of the Honolulu Office of Housing, said earlier this year there are 8,000 to 10,000 people on the state public housing waiting list and they face an estimated 10-year wait. The waiting list for federally subsidized housing is closed to new applicants, he said, because the list is so full.

By local and wire sources