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Storms ease but flash flood danger remains

By Craig Gima

LAST UPDATED: 11:40 p.m. HST, Mar 9, 2012

Heavy rain, accompanied by hail and lightning, flooded roads, overflowed sewers and caused landslides on Oahu, Maui and Kauai Friday morning. Residents evacuated at Otake Camp on Oahu's North Shore, where Kaukonahua Stream overflowed, Oahu Civil Defense reported. Flooding also was reported in Haleiwa.

A flash flood warning for Kauai was lifted late Friday, but the Garden Isle, Oahu and Niihau remained under a flash flood watch through 6 a.m. Saturday. In addition, a wind advisory for all islands except Lanai is in effect until 6 p.m. Saturday, with gusts up to 50 mph possible.

The Honolulu Fire Department reported receiving at least two dozen calls from Windward Oahu residents saying water was threatening or going into their homes during a three-hour period beginning at 8:30 a.m.

However, there were no reports of major injuries.

Many of the flooded condition calls came from homes fronting Kaneohe Bay on Aina Moi Place, off Kaneohe Bay Drive, said HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig. The drainage system in the area could not accommodate the debris and volume of rain that fell in such a short period, he said.

Seelig said three homeowners reported roof damage from severe winds in Enchanted Lake, where the National Weather Service said a tornado touched down between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m.

Heavy rain later eased for the western islands. 

Oahu experienced frequent lightning and hail on the Windward side before dawn Friday. The National Weather Service said hail up to 2 inches in diameter was reported in Kaneohe. Hail also was reported in Kailua.

The American Red Cross opened a shelter at Waialua Intermediate and High School, at 67-160 Farrington Highway. John Cummings, a spokesman for Oahu Civil Defense, said Otake Camp was being evacuated because of flood danger from Kaukonahua Stream.

Flooding was also reported in Haleiwa at Paalaa Road and Kamehameha Highway.

Kamehameha Highway in Windward Oahu reopened after being closed in several places, including in Punaluu and at Kualoa Regional Park, because of flooding and landslides. Cummings said Waikane Stream overflowed onto the Kamehameha this morning, but the road was later reopened. There was a mudslide on the highway in Heeia.

Flooding on Kahekili Highway near Kahuhipa Street and on Kapaa Quarry Road was also reported.

The city Department of Environmental Services reported 6,110 gallons of stormwater and sewage overflowed into Kawa Stream from a manhole at the Kaneohe Wastewater Pre-Treatment Facility at 6:25 a.m. At 7:45 a.m. another nearby manhole overflow at 44-217 Mikiola Drive spilled 2,250 gallons of untreated wastewater into a canal that leads to Kaneohe Bay, spokesman Markus Owens said.

The weather service forecaster Tom Birchard said records were likely broken. For the seven-day period ending Friday, the highest rainfall level was nearly 46 inches in Hanalei on Kauai.

Visitors to tourism-dependent Hawaii were urged to check weather advisories and warnings and to follow all recommendations. "As the storm continues to pass through our Hawaiian islands, we remain open for business," said Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO Mike McCartney.

Mike Zellman was hoping to trade cold weather in Hamburg, Germany with sunshine in Hawaii. He and his wife, clad in windbreakers, spent Friday afternoon at the state Capitol and planned to take refuge from the showers in a Honolulu shopping center.

"In the morning, we wanted to go to Diamond Head but it was closed because of the wonderful weather," he said sarcastically. The weather has affected "everything" during the their three days on Oahu so far: "Beach time. Nature time. The landscape," he said.

While there were reports of hotels crowded by guests stranded from canceled flights, George Costa, director of Kauai's Office of Economic Development said hotels were faring well as rain subsided Friday. "There are several road closures due to landslides and most of the inconvenience is being experienced by the resort staff not being able to report to work," he said.

In Kalihi, a fallen tree and a power pole blocked the 3300 block of Kalihi Street in both directions early Friday morning.

Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Darren Pai said crews responded to numerous power outages in Windward Oahu including Enchanted Lake, Kailua Heights, Kalaheo and along Kaneohe Bay Drive.

The heaviest rainfall was reported in the Oahu Forest National Wildlife Reserve in the northern Koolaus where nearly 10 inches fell in the 24-hour period ending at 11 a.m. Punaluu saw 7.9 inches and 4.2 inches was recorded in Ahuimanu.

Heavy rain over east Maui began easing this morning after pounding the area overnight and Thursday. Puu Kukui at the summit of the west Maui mountains saw 7.5 inches of rain. Gauges in east Maui malfunctioned so information was not available.

Maui Civil Defense officials reported Hana Highway was closed in at least three places today. A flash flood sent water over the road 3 miles west of Hana; a landslide was reported 12 miles west of Hana; and a tree was down over the road about 9 miles west of Hana.

Maui Electric Co. workers restored power to about 400 customers in and around Hana at about 9 a.m. this morning. The power went out at about 1:20 a.m. and landslides on Hana Highway initially prevented work crews from reaching the area.

Most of the rain on Kauai fell in the northeast. About 8.7 inches of rain fell over 12 hours in Hanalei this morning, Anahola got 6.4 inches and Lihue saw about 4 inches.

Roads remained closed on Kauai including: Kuhio Highway near the Hanalei Bridge (flooding); Ohiki Road in Hanalei;  Anini Road leading to Anini Beach; Kapahi bridge at the Kawaihau and Kahuna road junction; Kuhio Highway in Kīlauea (northbound traffic being diverted to Kolo Road while southbound traffic was being redirected to Pili Road); and onel ane of Kuhio Highway near Lumahai because of a landslide.

The Kauai Island Utility Cooperative reported power outages in Anini, Kalihiwai and Kilauea.

The Hanalei refuse transfer station was closed, while the Kapaa refuse transfer station was without power and accepting only bagged trash until power is restored.

The Hawai'i State Civil Defense has activated a toll free number for damage reports from residents whose property, home or business suffered damage from the ongoing severe weather. The toll free number is (855) 211-7456, extension 654.

The storm system moving west across the state hit Maui the hardest on Thursday. Flooding was also reported on Molokai.


Star-Advertiser reporters Gregg K. Kakesako and June Watanabe, and the Associated Press contributed to this story.

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