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Storm causes minor damage on Big Island after pounding Oahu, Maui

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 9:07 p.m. HST, Jan 13, 2011

A winter storm that pounded Oahu last night moved over Maui, where major flooding was reported in Kihei, and is hitting the Big Island today with scattered rain-related incidents.

Power outages were reported in some sections of the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in lower Puna, and lightning struck a guava tree in upper Hilo, said Charmaine Shigemura, an executive assistant to Mayor Billy Kenoi. 

As of 5 p.m., Hawaii County Civil Defense had issued a flood advisory for the Kau District but had not activated its disaster command center, Shigemura said.

Forecasters said the storm is weakening and moving north and should not generate heavy rain on the Big Island, although it is predicted to bring snow to Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

The worst of the weather appears to be over, forecasters said.

"It's going to gradually get better through the next 12 to 24 hours," said Ray Tanabe, a National Weather Service forecaster.

Oahu received as much as 10 inches of rain at Palehua above Makakilo in the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. today. Waianae and Central Oahu recorded 8 to 9.2 inches of rain.

The storm moved over Maui this morning where it caused flooding in Kihei and a rockslide that cut off the main highway between Lahaina and central Maui.

The state Department of Education said the following Maui District schools were closed today: Kamalii Elementary, Kihei Elementary, Lokelani Intermediate, Kula Elementary, and Kihei Public Charter School.

"Maui got the worst of it certainly in the early-morning hours," Tanabe said.

The Weather Service issued a special marine advisory this morning for the channel between Maui and the Big Island after seeing a potential waterspout develop about 15 nautical miles southeast of Hana.

Still, all islands remain under a flash flood watch. A winter storm warning is posted for Big Island summits because of snow and freezing rain.

Several roads were closed this morning on Oahu because of flooding and downed trees, including Kaukonahua Road and Weed Circle on the North Shore.

Police also closed north-bound lanes of Wilikina Drive at Lakeview Drive at 3:30 a.m. because of a downed tree and cables hanging over the roadway, but re-opened it just before 1:30 p.m..

Motorists from the H-2 freeway and Kamehameha Highway were detoured at Kunia Road through Wahiawa town to get to Schofield Barracks.

A downed tree also closed Kaneohe-bound lanes of Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa this morning.

Paakea Road in Waianae near the dip at Mailiili Road was also closed because of flooding. Police said vehicles are getting stuck in the water. And a sinkhole was also reported on Kalaeloa Boulevard by Malakole Street.

City crews managed to re-open Kamehameha Highway near Waikane Stream and Farrington Highway near Times Supermarket in Waipahu and by Honokai Hale to the Ko Olina Resort.

Overnight on Oahu, firefighters helped several people stranded by rising waters in Waianae.

Firefighters began receiving a torrent of calls between 7:20 and 8:20 p.m. about flooding conditions around Puhawai Road in Waianae, said fire Capt. Terry Seelig.

Firefighters fielded 17 calls within the hour and had to prioritize their response for the most critical cases, Seelig said.

Responding firefighters also faced obstacles from the weather, such as flooded roadways and people abandoning their cars in the middle of the road because of flooding, he said.

About 9 p.m., firefighters rescued a party of several people on foot, caught in rising water near Puhawai Road, Seelig said. 

"They were in swift-moving water that was rising," he said. "I'm not sure if they were clinging to anything. Best I can tell, they were in danger of being swept away."

Seelig said firefighters used a rope lifeline to guide the people out of the dangerous area. They were not hurt.

About the same time, firefighters rescued three people from a Puhawai Road home who were worried about quickly rising water nearby. He said firefighters also used the rope lifeline to guide the people out of the home without injury.

It wasn't clear if the flooding on Puhawai was coming from runoff or a river that was overflowing, Seelig said.

About 7:50 p.m., firefighters responded to a report of a vehicle in a river near the Makaha end of Puhawai Road. Police said the vehicle may have been parked on the road near a dip and began floating as the water rose.

Six houses lost portions of their roofs in Kaneohe last night.

Firefighters responded to three blown roofs and three downed trees, the largest of which blocked the road on Waiahole Valley Road in the back of the valley.

The bad weather also caused power outages in Haleiwa and from Makaha to Waianae, including at the Waianae police substation, which was being powered by a generator.

Ponding caused trouble on smaller streets, such as Lahilahi Street and Kili Drive, and forcing vehicles to use the inner lanes of Farrington Highway along the Leeward coast, police said.

Firefighters also responded to a report of a flooded home at Kauwili Street in Ewa Beach about 8 p.m.

John Cummings, spokesman for the city Department of Emergency Management, said firefighters responded to at least three reports of water evacuations last night on the Leeward Coast, mostly requesting assistance to pump out water.

Another storm system is predicted to move over the state Sunday evening. However, Tanabe said, the next system will not be as powerful and should pass quickly.

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