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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 31, 2002

Islands mop up as storm leaves state

Advertiser Staff

Hawai'i dug out and cleaned up yesterday after a storm drenched the state.

An acre of grass floated down the Wailua River on Kaua'i after heavy rains Tuesday night, and had to be removed by crane.

Jan Tenbruggencate • The Honolulu Advertiser

Sunny skies and pleasant tradewinds should arrive in the next few days as the kona storm moves away from the Islands, the National Weather Service said.

"By the weekend it will be pretty much perfect," said weather service meteorologist Hans Rosendal. "Nice, sunny and mostly light tradewinds."

The storm caused millions of dollars in damage on Maui and Lana'i, and dumped record amounts of rain at Honolulu International Airport, in Hilo on the Big Island, and in Kahului, Maui.

Kaua'i took most of the rain yesterday, getting as much as 3 inches in some places, Rosendahl said. In a strange rain-related sight yesterday, a vast island of grass floated down the Wailua River and became anchored at the entrance to the Wailua Marina. A state-hired crane and dump trucks cleared the grass island, estimated at more than an acre in size.

On the Big Island, a day after the east side was flooded with 12 to 17 inches of rain, Ka'u was still isolated, and four schools closed for a second day. Roads were closed from the summit of Mauna Kea to subdivisions in Puna and Ka'u.

Dennis Lee, chief engineer of Hawai'i County, said the damage was mostly limited to a few homes, and activity was getting back to normal.

Civil Defense chief Bill Davis said highway crews had examined two bridge structures in Ka'u that sustained roaring runoff four feet above the handrail. The bridges were able to handle north-south traffic by 7 a.m. yesterday.

Ka'u High School canceled classes for a second day. Principal Ronald Furukawa, who also manages neighboring Pahala Elementary School, said schools should reopen this morning.

Also closed yesterday were Na'alehu Elementary School and a charter school in Puna where parents struggled to get their children home on Tuesday afternoon because of street flooding.

Also still closed yesterday were the Mauna Kea Access Road above the 9,200-foot level, at Hale Pohaku, because of heavy rains, ice and snow; and private roadways in the Fern Acres and Orchidland subdivisions in Puna.

Officials reopened North Kulani Road in upper Puna and all roads that had been closed in Hilo.

On Lana'i, heavy rain caused exterior damage to several luxury homes around Manele Bay, including the mansion owned by David Murdock, chairman of Castle & Cooke, which owns 98 percent of the island and its two resort hotels. Insurance adjusters were still surveying the damage, said Sheila Donnelly Theroux, spokeswoman for the Lanai Co.

Mud, water and rocks forced the closure of the hotels' two golf courses. The course at the Lodge at Koele reopened yesterday afternoon. But the Manele Bay Hotel's Challenge at Manele is not scheduled to be cleared until next week.

On Maui, blue skies returned to Lahaina after the heaviest rains in five years. The only trace of Tuesday's flooding was the residue of red dirt that covered streets and lawns, and ponds on either side of Honoapi'ilani Highway filled with runoff from abandoned sugar cane fields.

Homes on Waine'e Street took the brunt of the flooding, with at least six properties sustaining estimated flood damage exceeding $100,000.

West Maui Carden Academy remained closed after its school building and a separate home used as an office were flooded. The school opened in September with 47 students, preschool through grade 3. Reopening will be a struggle. Director Marjorie Deigert estimated damage to computers and supplies at $18,000 to $20,000. Like others in the low-lying neighborhood, the academy was unable to get flood insurance.

On O'ahu, motorists flooded the city's road maintenance division with calls to fix potholes. Larry Leopardi, division chief for the city's Road Maintenance Division, said the division received more than 40 calls daily in the past few days, compared with 10 on normal days.

Advertiser reporters Hugh Clark, Mike Gordon, Jan TenBruggencate, Curtis Lum, Brandon Masuoka, Dan Nakaso and Christie Wilson contributed to this report.