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Rains slam Kauai, closing highway and forcing evacuation

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 6:55 p.m. HST, Mar 5, 2012

Kauai continues to be inundated by rain today, forcing the closure of Kuhio Highway near Kilauea, the evacuation of Anahola residents, and numerous other road closures, floods and landslides.

Kauai is currently under a severe thunderstorm watch, which will be in effect until 10 tonight, the National Weather Service said.

County officials said Kuhio Highway near Kilauea is closed due to a collapsing culvert under the highway. Northbound traffic is being diverted to Kolo Road, while southbound traffic is being redirected to Pili Road.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie's office announced today that on Friday he signed a disaster proclamation authorizing the state Department of Transportation to start emergency repair work on that stretch of highway because of the partial collapse of the 15-foot culvert. The heavy rain today and over the weekend intensified soil erosion at the culvert foundation from previous rains.

County officials also urged Anahola residents who live near the Anahola Bridge and Kikoo Loop to move to higher ground today because of  major flooding in the area.

The evacuation comes after several days of steady rain over the Garden Island.

Kauai remains under a flash-flood warning at least 8:30 p.m., as the "unsettled weather" that soaked the islands this weekend continues to dump heavy rain, according to the National Weather Service.

As of 5:25 p.m., heavy rainfall continues over north and east Kauai with about 1 to 2 inches of rain per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

The rest of the state, except for Hawaii island, are under a flash flood watch through Tuesday.

Forecasters expect heavy rain and potential flooding to continue through Tuesday afternoon. The system has moved over Maui and Oahu, where heavy rain, thunder and lightning were seen early this morning. Rain continued to fall on already-soaked Kauai, which took the worst hit of the weekend rains, with flooding, road closures, and power outages.

The weather service has issued a host of bulletins, including:

 >> A flash flood warning for Kauai through 5:45 p.m. Heavy rainfall has diminished over Kauai, but the Hanalei River remains above flood stage and there are several road closures because of flooding throughout the island.

>> A flood advisory for Maui through 3:45 p.m. Radar showed a strong thunderstorm near Ulupalakua moving toward Haleakala National Park. Rain is also falling over Leeward West Maui and more rain may be on the way.

>> A flash flood watch for Oahu, Kauai, Niihau, Maui, Molokai Lanai and Kahoolawe through Tuesday afternoon as a weather system continues to bring rain to grounds already saturated with previous rains. A watch means that conditions exist that can cause flooding.

Forecasters advise the public to beware of hazardous driving conditions, and not to try to cross fast-flowing or rising water in a vehicle or on foot.

Most of the rain on Oahu fell on the windward side. About 9.9 inches of rain fell in Punaluu Stream during the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. About 8.2 inches fell in the back of Moanalua Valley and 7.8 inches was recorded in Kahana.

Rain gauges showed 12.5 inches of rain fell in the Hanalei River in the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Another 11 inches fell in Wainiha and 9.1 inches was recorded in the Wailua Ditch.

Flooding was reported throughout Kauai today and county officials closed Kuhio Highway near Haena Beach Park and at the Hanalei Bridge. The north shore has been cut off since Saturday night with the closure of the bridge. Police report that flooding from the Hanalei River has reached past the Hanalei Dolphin Restaurant. Cars were moved near the Postcards Cafe on Kuhio Highway as a precaution.

With the Hanalei Bridge closed, Kauai county opened Waioli Church in Hanalei and Kīlauea gym as "holding areas" for anyone who needs a place to rest on the north shore during the heavy rains.

Landslides closed sections of Kuhio Highway near Powerhouse Road in Lumahai, in Anahola and in Haena Beach Park in the vicinity of Aku Road. A failed culvert closed the highway near mile marker 22.5 in Kilauea, northbound traffic is being diverted to Kolo Road, while southbound traffic is being redirected to Pili Road.

On the north shore and Anahola, only one-way traffic is being allowed near mile marker 24.5 near the Kalihiwai Bridge and at mile marker 14 in Anahola.

Serious ponding is also reported on the highway near Mailihuna Road, Kaiakea fire station, Papaloa Road, Wailua Golf Course and on Rice Street near the Anchor Cove Shopping Center.

In addition, Kamalu Road near Wailua Homesteads Park is closed because of flooding and Olohena Road near the bridge west of Kapaa Middle School.

The county is asking motorists to avoid driving in the affected areas.

About 12 residents were temporarily displaced from their homes along Wailani Road and Aloha Place in Koloa Sunday morning due to flooding, Kauai officials said. The American Red Cross opened a shelter at the Koloa Neighborhood Center but closed it at 6 p.m. Sunday because there were no residents using it.

Forecasters also have issued the following notices:

>> A gale warning for waters from 40 to 240 nautical miles from Hawaii;

>> A small craft advisory for waters within 40 nautical miles of Hawaii;

>> A wind advisory for Hawaii island summits;

>> And a high surf warning for eastern shores of Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island, and a high surf advisory for northern shores of Oahu, Maui and Molokai, until Tuesday morning with surf up to 15 feet.


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