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Storm smacks Maui, moves on to Big Island

Oahu tries to dry out after massive rainfall that flooded roads and downed a roof

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 3:55 a.m. HST, Jan 14, 2011

A winter storm that wreaked havoc for two days on its way down the island chain was expected to bring snow to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa last night before weakening and moving farther north.

For most of yesterday, Maui appeared to take the brunt of the storm as Oahu mopped up from downpours that came Wednesday night. Scattered rain-related incidents were being reported as the storm hit the Big Island last night.

Power failures were being reported in some sections of the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in lower Puna, and lightning struck a guava tree in upper Hilo, said Charmaine Shigemura, an executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi.

As of 5 p.m. Hawaii County Civil Defense had issued a flood advisory for the Kau District but had not activated its disaster command center, Shigemura said.

By yesterday afternoon the worst of the weather appeared to be over.

"It's going to gradually get better through the next 12 to 24 hours," said Ray Tanabe, a National Weather Service forecaster.

Still, all islands remained under a flash flood watch. A winter storm warning was posted for Big Island summits because of snow and freezing rain.

On Oahu the weight of accumulated rainwater collapsed part of the roof of a Kapolei warehouse late Wednesday night, causing an estimated $300,000 in damage to the building and its contents, Honolulu fire officials said.

Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman, said a 50-foot-square section of a 300-foot-long roof of Pro File Record Systems Inc., a records storage warehouse at 91-242 Kalaeloa Blvd., collapsed Wednesday night. The collapsed roof sheared off pipes leading to the sprinkler system, flooding a portion of the warehouse, Seelig said.

Donn Takaki, Pro File Record Systems vice chairman, said the damage affected less than 10 percent of the records stored in a corner of the warehouse. The records belong to a small percentage of the company's customers, he said.

"We believe we can salvage most and hopefully all" of the records damaged, Takaki said.

Last night the state Department of Health advised Oahu residents to avoid waters and shore areas between Ko Olina and Kahe Power Plant after Waste Management of Hawaii, the operators of the city's only municipal landfill, discharged storm water into the ocean.

"There is evidence of refuse, including but not limited to, medical waste, washing ashore at the Ko Olina Lagoons," the Health Department said. The city has posted warning signs in the affected areas, and nearby resorts have closed their beaches until further notice.

Continued discharge of contaminated water can be expected over the next few days because storm water has collected in landfill cells, the Health Department said.

In Waianae, Mailiili Stream flooded in the area of Puhawai Road in Lualualei Valley late Wednesday. A couple had to be rescued from their car by firefighters when it hit rushing water. The car remained in several feet of water yesterday morning.

Edward Hernandez, a Puhawai Road resident, said that while the stream floods frequently, this week's deluge was the worse he had seen in the years he has lived there.

"The water last night was over that car," Hernandez said, pointing to where the couple had been rescued. "It was just flowing."

The storm moved yesterday morning over Maui, where it caused flooding in Kihei and a rockslide that cut off the main highway between Lahaina and Central Maui.

"Maui got the worst of it certainly in the early-morning hours," said forecaster Tanabe.

The pali road linking Lahaina and Kahului was shut down for most of yesterday morning, and portions of nearly three miles of Kihei's coastline road were closed until today. Ground travel for thousands of residents and visitors was halted.

"We got nailed pretty bad. ... We had huge flows coming down all the streams and drainage ways," Maui County highways chief Brian Hashiro said.


Star-Advertisers reporters Gordon Y.K. Pang, Gary T. Kubota, Craig Gima and Gregg K. Kakesako contributed to this story.

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