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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 12:07 p.m., Monday, December 8, 2003

Rain dies down but water, mud make mess for many

By Mike Gordon
and Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

The rain that hammered O'ahu yesterday may have ended late last night but Mapunapuna remained a muddy mess today.
P.J. Gerhardt looks at the damage to his home’s roof from falling boulders and the 4 feet tall pile of mud in back of his Mea'ala Street home following the heavy rains last night. The boulders landed on the side of the house where his son’s bedroom is located.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

And in 'Aiea Heights, a homeowner was trying to figure out what to do with five feet of mud that had slammed into the back of his home. Boulders also crashed through his eaves.

"Mud is seeping into the bathroom," said P.J. Gerhardt, who stayed up all night at his Mea'ala Street home wondering if the slope above the house would send more debris.

"We feel unsafe because you can still see loose boulders up there," Gerhardt said. "There is nothing holding them up except mud."

Throughout yesterday afternoon, thunderstorms drenched much of Windward, North and Central O'ahu, swelling streams and canals and flooding highways and homes.

Firefighters were kept busy with 80 weather-related emergency calls between 6 p.m. and midnight, said Capt Kenison Tejada, department spokesman.

Flooding was so bad in parts of Mapunapuna after 6 p.m., that drivers were stranded in their cars.

"One lady was on the freeway by the Shafter offramp and she called for help," Tejada said. "People just couldn’t get out of their cars."

Employees at Plywood Hawai'i arrived at work about 7 a.m. today and found plywood floating in two feet of water in the warehouse and five inches of mud in the parking lot, said owner Fred Smales.

"It got into our office and into our computers, which are on the floor, of course," Smales said.

In eight years on Kikowaena Place he’s never had this problem, even though his business backs up to Moanalua Stream, he said. And he’s not sure what to do with soggy wood.

"We’re just trying to figure that out now," he said this morning.

No serious rain-related injuries were reported, but three teenagers who tried to cross swollen waterways in two separate incidents were lucky to escape.

The three teens who stepped into a canal in Waipahu were carried for about 20 feet, Tejada said. In Moanalua, 17-year-old Daniel Magdaloyo traveled a mile along Moanalua Stream before catching onto vegetation and pulling himself to safety.

A few hours after Magdaloyo escaped Moanalua Stream, the water there began to rise in earnest. By about 9 p.m., Moanalua Freeway had to be shut down after the stream flooded onto it near Moanalua Gardens, said Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

Police and motorists also reported flooding on H-1 Freeway near Middle Street, and heavy pooling on H-1 in a number of areas, including near the Sears Distribution Center.

Ishikawa said mudslides brought down four sections of the hillside at Castle Junction yesterday, but all were within the protective concrete barrier erected by the state in June.

Road crews were monitoring flooding along Pali Highway in upper Nu'uanu, he said, and other crews were working to clear a bridge on Kamehameha Highway onto which a tree had fallen.

Between about 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., firefighters responded to more than four dozen requests for assistance in flooded homes, said Tejada, Fire Department spokesman.

One Nu'uanu home off Liliha Street was flooded by almost two feet of water when Waolani Stream rose.

Police and Good Samaritans in four-wheel-drive vehicles pushed stranded motorists in flooded cars onto medians, according to police radio reports.

Police shut down both lanes on Kamehameha Highway near the Dole Plantation at about 8:20 p.m.

Residents of 'Aiea reported that drivers had abandoned cars along Ulune Street when the water seeped up almost to the windows of the vehicles. Residents of Halawa Heights reported rock and mud slides on Halawa Heights Road near Fern Ridge Place.

More than 6,400 homes were without power when a problem at the upper Kipapa substation blacked out parts of Mililani Mauka at about 7:45 p.m., said Peter Rosegg, a HECO spokesman. Power had been restored to half of the residences by 9:15 p.m., and crews continued to work into the night.

The problem appeared to be weather related, Rosegg said.

The exceptionally wet weather was caused by a low-pressure, upper atmosphere center several hundred miles west of the state, holding back the trade winds and allowing the rain to stall in place, said Jonathan Hoag, forecaster for the National Weather Service.

The center was expected to lift to the north, allowing more normal trade wind weather, with its briefer showers, to return today, he said.

Spots in Kane'ohe got hit hard in the afternoon, as thunderstorms capped the Ko'olaus and stalled there. More than 7 inches of rain fell between about 11 a.m. and

5 p.m. at the Waihee pump, according to a weather service report. Almost 5 inches fell at the Wilson Tunnel during the same period.

The rain spread over Central O'ahu as the afternoon wore on. By 5 a.m. today Mililani had received 8.3 inches of rain. The eastern portion of Schofield Barracks was pelted by 11.1 inches in the 24 hours ending at 5 a.m. today.

The sustained, heavy rain prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood warning at 6:30 p.m. for Waimalu, Halawa, 'Aiea, Aliamanu, Fort Shafter, Hale'iwa, Hau'ula, Ka'a'awa, Kahalu'u and Kahuku.

The Wilson Reservoir was near overflow, the service reported, and Kaukonahua Stream near Waialua was approaching flood conditions.

Reach Mike Gorfdon at 525-8012 or mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com and Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.