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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, April 1, 2006

Surprise ending at mall movie

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kahala Mall workers tried to clean up floodwaters that entered the mall yesterday afternoon. The mall is expected to remain closed today and tomorrow so that store owners can assess the damage.

JEFF WIDENER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KAHALA William Dearmore was in the Kahala Mall movie theater with his mom when the lights started flickering and the projector went dead.

He thought nothing of it, but then he turned to see people filing toward the exits as water began seeping from the walls and flowing down the aisles.

"Me and my mom were just chilling there waiting for people to clear out and then this rumbling sound came and the wall broke and all this water came rushing out. There was at least 3 feet of water in the theater; it was like something from (the movie) 'Titanic,' but the water was brown," said Dearmore, a 19-year-old automotive student at Honolulu Community College.

"We were watching 'Ice Age.' Imagine the irony."

The storm that pounded O'ahu yesterday wreaked havoc at Kahala Mall, where floodwaters combined to overload the theater's wall and ceiling located below. The rushing water burst through the theater doors and damaged several ground-level stores.

"The good news is nobody was injured and it's only property damage," said Scott Creel, regional marketing director for Kahala Mall. "The runoff was such that the gutters couldn't hold it, then gravity took over and pulled it into the mall."

Officials said the mall would close today and tomorrow as workers assess damage and clean up. Roughly 80 percent of the stores on the ground level were filled to varying degrees with water yesterday afternoon, Creel said.

Some stores that have their own entrances, such as Longs Drug Store and Tower Records, may remain open this weekend, he said.

The wall in the theater collapsed shortly after noon, along with part of the ceiling.

Emilio Herrero, a 58-year-old geophysics professor at the University of Hawai'i, was standing in line to buy a ticket when he saw people leaving the theaters and water rushing out.

"I couldn't get in because people said the ceiling was collapsing," he said. "The water was coming out of the theaters."

With an alarm shrieking in the background, shopkeepers spent yesterday afternoon trying to save their stores. Near Longs, workers dumped bags of cat litter at the base of a security door that was lowered to try to stop the water from seeping in.

With at least a foot of water in some places, security guards roamed the mall asking people to leave. At least one woman sobbed uncontrollably. Guards escorted her out of the mall, where they waited with her while she called her family.

Some stores nearest the theater, Town & Country Surf, KB Toys and IC Communications, were completely flooded, and display signs, toys, clothes, trash and shelves floated in debris-filled water.

Inside KB Toys, a manager struggled to push floating toys back into the store while she fumbled with a security gate that wouldn't lock. As soon as she pushed a stuffed animal or board game back into the store, a Batman figure or string of beads would float out or jam under the gate.

Samuel Maumau, a 64-year old retired Big Island resident who is in town for a visit, said he was in Lenscrafters when the water arrived. He said he saw shoes, plants and other debris rush in with the flood.

"It started seeping down slowly, then it started rushing in," he said as he stood watching the water pour out of the door near Pizza Hut. "They put up towels but they washed away. It was frightening."

The stairwell leading to the mall's basement, next to Borders Express, was a rushing waterfall at 12:30 p.m. yesterday, and people crowded the escalators on each side watching the show.

Shane Duhon, an IC Communications employee, stood in ankle-deep water trying to get the shop in order. Though the water had started to recede by mid-afternoon, a lot of his inventory had gotten wet and leaves, dirt and mud had washed in.

"It's unfortunate for all the merchants in here," he said.

Two stores down from Pizza Hut, jewelry store owner Annie Kao stood shaking her head.

"It's terrible," the owner of Liana of Hawaii said. "More than terrible."

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• Correction: There was not a water main break on Hunakai Street on Friday. An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information.

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