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Sinkhole swallows truck, roof section is blown off home on Big Isle

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:09 a.m. HST, Dec 31, 2013

Heavy rains drenched Hawaii island's Windward coast Monday morning, scattering runoff and debris across the area -- causing a Paauilo Mauka road to collapse beneath a truck and the roof of a Hilo home to blow off, according to officials.

Just before 5 p.m., inclement weather and reports of possible micro tornado caused a 30-foot by 30-foot section of a Hilo home's roof, with trusses, to be blown off and thrown approximately 250 feet to the southwest, Hawaii County fire officials said.

Two people were in the house at the time, located near Hoopuni and Iloko streets, and one sustained minor injuries.

More rain Monday afternoon and evening prompted a flash flood warning that expired at 8 a.m. A flash flood watch remains in effect until 6 this evening as heavy showers and thunderstorms are expected to darken the Big Isle's skies for the rest of the day.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense was alerted to the road collapse site on Pohakea Mauka Road, near its junction with Manienie Road, at about 8 a.m., Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said. The rain had caused a culvert beneath the street to shift, which then triggered the roadway's collapse as a Dodge pickup drove over it. The truck fell into a giant sinkhole-like crater, Oliveira said.

The truck's female driver emerged with minor injuries and "definitely very shaken," Oliveira said. County public works personnel are at the site and "trying to come up with a plan" for repair -- but it likely will be a slow fix. Oliveira said.

The rains also caused landslides across an approximately 11-mile stretch of Highway 19, between the 25- to 36-mile marker, he said.

The rains set a new record for rainfall at the Hilo Airport. About 5.51 inches fell Monday, beating the old record of 4.58 inches set in 1951.

Rain caused heavy damage to the home that lost its roof, officials said. Fire personnel worked to move all exposed belongings to below the remaining 1/3 of the roof, but heavy water damage was done to the residence in the meantime.

While in the air, the roof section also struck the top of a 30-foot power pole, dislodging the cross beam and high tension power lines, fire officials said.

Damage is estimated at $80,000, and response effort prevented an additional $20,000 in damage from occurring.

Officials at the National Weather Service had warned that the storm could produce gusty winds and small hail and along with heavy rain.

The Muliwai Trail and Waimanu Valley campground in North Kohala closed at 1 p.m. due to flooding.

The storm also brought snow to Mauna Kea and hail to Hilo, Puna and Pahoa Sunday night, according to reports to the National Weather Service.

"It's been a while since we've had such heavy downpour with so much runoff," Oliveira said. "The ground's been pretty dry for a while. It's been drier than normal and now we're having heavier than normal rainfall."

Heavy flooding occurred near the 34-mile marker of Highway 19, police said. The highway closed from the 26- through 36-mile marker for most of the morning and reopened just before noon. Other road closures included Pohakea Mauka Road in Paauiko, Kukila Street in Hilo and Highway 130 near Shower Drive in Puna.

The storm's passage over the Big Island was captured by a cloud camera at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea. The video is embedded in this story Staradvertiser.com website below and can be seen on mobile devices through this link: http://youtu.be/COF5dEadvmg

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