It was around 11 p.m. Sunday, and the dozens of families camping in tents at Keaukaha Beach Park had largely packed up and gone home in anticipation of Tropical Storm Flossie’s expected arrival.
But not Victoria Spalding Harris and her family.
A longtime resident of East Hawaii whose parents hail from Keaukaha, Harris said she’d seen plenty of storms come and go through the area, and Flossie simply didn’t rate very high on her list of concerns.
“I knew it wasn’t gonna be such a big thing. … The last one they said was coming for us, and it slipped by, too,” she said Monday morning, after the storm passed the Big Isle leaving little damage in its wake.
“They all seem to do that. We always been lucky that way. … I think it’s the mountains. They protect us, make the storm go around. It’s what saved us for many, many years.”
Harris said her mother stopped by the campsite and asked her to leave, but she and other members of the family decided they would stick it out.
“I came down from the mountain to surf,” said Brad Mercado, as he pointed to the choppy waves in Puhi Bay. “I came down for check ’em out. I wasn’t gonna leave.”
Surfers on Monday morning also flocked to Honolii, hoping waves fueled by the passing of Flossie to the north would be larger than normal.
Some were cautious and watched from Kahoa Street above the beach park before deciding to go in.
Surfer Kevin Kapsky said he was expecting conditions to be worse. But, with little wind Monday morning, he decided it was worth going out.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s not bad,” he said.
Kapksy added that given the relatively small waves that are typical on the east side of the island, “you can’t ask for a lot more.”
Melia Taganas, who was shooting video on her phone of her boyfriend surfing, said she had seen bigger waves at the park.
“It’s not that rough,” she said, noting it was nothing that surfers with experience couldn’t handle.
“I would definitely not go out there today.”
Surfers were joined by onlookers eager to catch some glimpse of the storm.
“I’m just happy that it’s not raining,” said Leonard Smith of Hawaiian Paradise Park.
“It’s just a good day to come out and watch the guys tear it up.”
On Monday around noon at Keaukaha, others were taking advantage of a day that had suddenly opened up after they had planned to spend it indoors. Skyler Tehero had a pair of fishing poles set up on the jetty, and was thinking positively, although he hadn’t had any luck as of yet.
“I’m wishing, instead of fishing,” he said with a laugh.
Tehero, who grew up in Hilo, said he’d stayed out fishing until about 10 p.m. Sunday, and was surprised that the weather had remained clear until then.
“I thought it was gonna get bad, and I’d have to go in, but it didn’t,” he said. “Then, I thought today I’d just be inside all day. I woke up thinking it would be this crazy storm, and nothing.”
He added that he, too, thought there was something to the theory that the Big Isle’s geography may have a hand in protecting it from serious storms.
“The last time they said we were going to have a bad storm, the same thing happened,” he said. “I think it’s something to do with the mountains.”
A group of about eight or nine Belgian tourists were busily snapping away with their cameras at Liliuokalani Park just before noon. The group said they had been traveling through the Hawaiian Islands for about two weeks and had planned to wrap up their trip with a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Monday. That plan went out the window, however, when Flossie began bearing down on the Big Island.
“We thought we would be in the hotel all day today,” one woman in the group said. “Now, we’re looking for something to do.”
Despite their disappointment, the tourists said they weren’t at all upset about Hilo’s weather.
“We are from Europe, and it is always dark and raining,” said one man with a laugh.