Heavy rains ease, rescue efforts improve after Hawaii storm
HONOLULU (AP) — Heavy rains on Kauai let up on Monday, which helped emergency workers better rescue people stranded by flooding on the Hawaiian island.
By Monday afternoon, emergency crews evacuated 152 people by helicopter, 121 people by bus and others by water, according to the governor’s office.
Officials were warning people who wanted to be evacuated that it’s not known when they can return because of landslides blocking Kuhio Highway on the island’s north shore.
Forty people, mostly tourists, were stuck since Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter in an elementary school in the north shore town of Hanalei. Plans to airlift them out of the school, which was surrounded by water, were abandoned because severe weather grounded helicopters, said Coralie Matayoshi, CEO of American Red Cross of Hawaii.
On Sunday night, another 21 people made their way to the shelter on personal watercraft and boats, she said. The shelter earlier had run out of food and water, but received adequate provisions Sunday, she said.
By the afternoon, flood waters receded enough for a bus to take them to another shelter, the Red Cross said.
An estimated 30 campers were stranded in the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park on Monday. State parks officials were coordinating with county and state emergency workers about prioritizing rescue missions.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. and Hawaii Gov. Davide Ige assessed damage and rescue needs by helicopter on Monday.
“While we have a long road to recovery ahead of us, we are incredibly grateful for everyone who has stepped to the plate to help in one way or another,” Carvalho said.
There were no reports of major injuries. At least two houses on the north shore completely washed off their foundations, county spokeswoman Sarah Blane said. The houses were vacant, she said.
The Red Cross said volunteers knew of four destroyed homes in Wainiha, on the north shore, and there are probably more homes damaged in Koloa, on the south side, based on aerial photos.
“It’s definitely the worst storm in recent memory,” Blane said.
Some residents said it was worse than Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
The National Weather Service recorded 28.1 inches (71.3 centimeters) of rainfall in Hanalei between 2 a.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. The record for a 24-hour period in Hanalei was set in 2012 at 28.54 inches (72.49 centimeters). “It’s highly likely that the record was broken by heavy rainfall after the gauge stopped recording,” said meteorologist Chevy Chevalier. The weather service is trying to figure out why the gauge stopped recording, he said.
Meredith Zietz, who was still trapped in her Hanalei home Monday, posted video of a skittish bison as it dashed through her waterlogged yard.
“It was amazing. It looked scared though,” she said. She said she believed it was from a buffalo farm near the Hanalei River.
Nearby in Haena, James Hennessy maneuvered his flooded, murky street on a standup paddleboard to check on neighbors.
“We really can’t go anywhere,” he said, adding that he’s was grateful to have electricity, even though there was no water or internet service.
Jeff Culverhouse, manager and partner of a Hanalei strip mall, was wishing for a hot shower as he pumped water out of elevators Monday. Every shop in the mall had 4 to 6 inches (10.16 to 15.24 centimeters) of water and thick mud, he said, though the Big Save Market was open.
“The place is a freaking mess, to say the least,” he said.
Alina Hartounian contributed to this report from Phoenix.