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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2003

Torrential rains flood roadways and homes

By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

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

William Simpson, of Wahiawa, a highway maintenance supervisor for the Department of Transportation's Highway Division, helped to clear debris in Waipi'o yesterday after heavy rain caused rockfalls and flooding.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

In separate incidents, teenagers in Waipahu and Moanalua who tried to cross swollen waterways were swept downstream, but all were able to escape without serious injury, said Fire Capt Kenison Tejada.

The three teens who stepped into a canal in Waipahu were carried for about 20 feet. 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.

A residence on the 2300 block of Liliha Street in Nu'uanu near Waolani Stream was flooded when the stream rose during heavy rain yesterday. Parts of Windward and Central O'ahu got 5 to 7 inches of rain in the 12-hour period ending at 8 p.m. yesterday.

Chris Kanemura • The Honolulu Advertiser

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. Mililani had received almost 5 inches of rain by 8 p.m. The eastern portion of Schofield Barracks was pelted by 5 1/2 inches.

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.

At shortly before 9 p.m., the weather service extended the warning through midnight and included 'Ewa Beach, 'Ewa, Waialua, Hau'ula and Honolulu among the threatened areas.

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

Reach Karen Blakeman at 535-2430 or kblakeman@honoluluadvertiser.com