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Big Isle crews seek man lost in flood

By Gene Park

LAST UPDATED: 1:36 a.m. HST, Jul 12, 2011

Hawaii County rescue officials were still looking Monday night for a 43-year-old Puna man who was caught in a flash flood in Papaikou.

Hawaii County firefighters responded to a 9:27 p.m. call Sunday to Kawainui Stream near Old Mamalahoa Highway. Ernesto Combes of Nanawale in Puna was fishing for prawns when he was caught by a flash flood and swept down the river, police said.

A 45-year-old woman was rescued. An ambulance took her to Hilo for treatment, fire officials said. Police do not suspect foul play in Combes' disappearance.

There were no flash flood warnings or advisories for Hawaii County that night, according to the National Weather Service. Employees at some area businesses Monday said they recall little rain Sunday night.

Rain data for Papaikou was unavailable, but nearby areas reported small amounts of rain in the three hours before 11 p.m. Sunday.

At Piihonua, rain gauges recorded about 0.76 inches of rain that night. At Laupahoehoe it was about 0.26 inches of rain, said National Weather Services hydrologist Kevin Kodama.

"The indications from our radar show that it was pretty consistent across that area," Kodama said.

Kodama said East Hawaii typically gets a lot of rain, and Sunday's rain was not substantial enough for any flash flood warnings or advisories.

Kodama said, "It doesn't take much of a rise. Even rain from a passing tradewind shower can cause some rising. … If you're in a stream channel, you're already in harm's way."

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