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Storm brings lightning and flooding to Oahu overnight

By Star-Advertiser Staff

LAST UPDATED: 10:35 p.m. HST, Jun 5, 2011

Skies cleared this morning following a night of wild weather that included the rescue of a family stranded in their car by a flash flood at Waikane Stream; more than 13,000 lightning strikes; and flooding along Kamehameha Highway from Kahaluu to Punaluu.

Forecasters say the worst weather is likely over. But there is still a chance of heavy showers this afternoon and another weather system may move back over the islands on Wednesday.

There were no reports of major flood damage, said John Cummings, a spokesman for the city's Department of Emergency Management.

The city opened its emergency operations center at 7:13 p.m. last night after the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for Oahu and closed the center.

The Honolulu Fire Department helped rescue a family who were apparently stranded in their vehicle near Waikane Stream last night. Cumming said. 

Kamehameha Highway was  closed from Kahaluu to Kaawa Saturday night. There were multiple reports of flooding and ponding on Kamehameha Highway and state Department of Transportation crews were called out to help clear the roads. Four feet of water was reported on the road near Punaluu Stream. Flooding was also reported at Pokiwai Stream.

City crews opened the mouth of Kaelepulu Stream at Kailua Beach Park to prevent upstream flooding, Cummings said.

At 8:46 p.m. rain was falling at a rate of about 4 inches an hour, the National Weather Service said.

"There was a lot of water in a short period of time," said Capt. Robert Main, a spokesman for the Honolulu Fire Department.

Main said firefighters responded to 23 calls between 7:30 p.m. and 11:23 p.m. and had to prioritize their response because of the volume of 911 calls throughout Windward Oahu.

More than 10 inches fell on Punaluu Stream in the 12-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Kahana reported nearly 9 inches. Waihee recored 5.8 inches; Ahuimanu saw 5.3 inches and 4.8 inches fell in the northern Koolaus at the Oahu Forest National Wildlife Reserve. 

Main said firefighters responded to Waikane Stream at about 7:30 p.m. He said three adults and two children were stranded when their vehicle stalled while crossing floodwaters on Kamehameha Highway. A mother and child made it to the Kahaluu side of the highway, but the three others in the vehicle were trapped and climbed onto the roof of the vehicle. Firefighters assisted them in getting to the Waikane side of the stream, helped them dry out and eventually reunited the family, Main said.

Floodwaters had receded by the time firefighters arrived at many of the calls Saturday, Main said. Firefighters did help divert water or fill sandbags at homes in Kailua and Kahaluu. They also helped  vacuum water from three homes in Kailua, Kaneohe and Kahaluu and responded to one blown roof call.

The storm also created lightning, which was visible throughout Oahu. The National Weather Service estimates about 13,387 lightning strikes statewide between 3 p.m. and 3 a.m.

A storm system in the mid- and upper-atmosphere is responsible for the unseasonable weather, which is more typical of the winter than summertime, forecasters said. 

Tradewinds from the northeast are expected to change to Kona winds from the southeast today which could bring humid conditions through Wednesday, when the northeast tradewinds should return.

The sunny weather this mooring could lead to afternoon cloudiness and showers, said Tom Birchard, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. 

Rising warm air could mix with cold air in the mid- and upper-atmosphere creating heavy showers and unstable conditions. A funnel cloud was seen over Central Oahu late this morning.

The storm system that brough Saturday's heavy rain is weakening and moving away, but is still over the islands, Birchard said.

"We've still got a pretty good chance of showers developing over the islands this afternoon, but we're not predicting thunderstorms except on the Big Island," Birchard said.

Forecasters are also watching the development of another upper atmosphere storm system which could bring cold, unstable air and more rain back to the state on Wednesday.

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