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

Homes, roads from Makiki to Kane'ohe inundated

Rain photo gallery
 •  Surprise ending at Kahala Mall movie
 •  Floodwaters flip boats, enter Kuli'ou'ou homes
 •  Woman, dog, parrot rescued by firefighters
 •  Waikiki banyan tree collapses on parked bus
 •  Water 'had a really big power' on Kalakaua

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Windward O'ahu Writer

Rita Meheula is evacuated from her Moku Place home by Makiki firefighters Kimo Acopan, left, and Victor Sherman. An overflowing Makiki Stream yesterday flooded houses and apartments on Moku Place, a residential neighborhood off Ke'eaumoku Street.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Claudine Rivera, manager of Pictures Plus in Kahala Mall, retrieves framed artwork from water flooding the store on the ground level.

BRUCE ASATO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hiroko Adachi pauses outside her flooded Makiki home after evacuating it with family members. Her home was flooded yesterday for the second time in a week. Overflow from rain-bloated Makiki Stream caused the flooding yesterday in the Moku Place neighborhood.

RICHARD AMBO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Heavy rains helped bring down this tree along University Avenue near Sea View Avenue. The tree did not hit any cars and no one was injured. Calls to help clear trees, evacuate residents and help pump water from homes kept police and fire crews busy for hours.

JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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KANE'OHE For a few hours yesterday, the heavens unloaded a torrent of rain on Honolulu that flooded neighborhoods, sent water gushing through Kahala Mall, shut down H-1 Freeway and sent a shiver of fear through upper Manoa.

There, nervous homeowners watched the same stream that devastated their community a year and a half ago overflow once more.

The National Weather Service said 1 to 2 inches of rain fell per hour in Honolulu and as much as 3 inches per hour in Waimanalo. It fell so furiously that it overloaded the city's overtaxed sewer systems, causing more than a dozen sewage spills in central Honolulu, Kailua and Kane'ohe.

It also caused flooding in Kaimuki, Pawa'a and Waikiki, and closed the townbound lanes of H-1 near Middle Street. Two boats tied to a moor in the Hawai'i Kai harbor were flipped over by gushing waters, and one woman in Waimanalo, along with her dog and parrot, had to be rescued from rising waters by firefighters.

Perhaps the most eerie damage happened at the Kahala Mall theater, where moviegoers watching "Ice Age" saw a theater wall and part of the ceiling collapse in front of them as rain and a water main break sent flood waters cascading through the theater and the mall's ground-level stores.

No injuries were reported, but damage extended to Waimanalo.

"It felt like the sky was falling," said Cora Eggerman, head librarian at the Waimanalo Public & School Library. Eggerman said she and her staff anxiously watched as the water level came within inches of the library door. "The school is like a giant lake now," she said.

Heavy rain, including thunder and lightning, hit the south side of O'ahu at about 10 a.m. and rolled across East O'ahu, Waimanalo, Kailua and Kane'ohe before heading out to sea at about 1:30 p.m.

By 1:45 p.m., the sun was shining more brightly here than it has in more than a month.

But while the rain was falling, residents overloaded the 911 phone lines. The Honolulu Police Department sent out a public plea early in the afternoon asking residents not to call 911 unless it was an emergency.

It could have been worse.

At one point, emergency workers went door-to-door behind Noelani Elementary School warning residents to be ready to evacuate because Manoa Stream was on the brink of overflowing. Though it rose and spilled over briefly, the residents were mostly spared.

Longs Drug Store's parking lot in Manoa took in more than a foot of water, witnesses said, but residents said the downpour didn't match that of October 2004, when the overflowing stream carried cars down the street.

Yesterday, it was Makiki Stream's turn to cause problems, this time in Pawa'a, where streets, homes and businesses flooded.

Makiki Stream's overflow was especially harsh near Ke'eaumoku Street, the upper part of Makiki and as far down as Kalakaua Avenue, said John Cummings of O'ahu's Civil Defense.

Larry Leopardi, chief of the city's road maintenance division, said his crews were everywhere yesterday, replacing manhole covers, removing slide debris, delivering sandbags, pumping out flooded areas and checking clogged streams.

"We're fully engaged, particularly in our Kailua yard, Honolulu yard, Wai'anae and Pearl City," Leopardi said. "There was another major slide at Round Top (Drive). This is a big one but we just can't hit it right now. We got too many other things going on.

"There's not much left up there. I think all the backyards are clean. Anybody who had anything, it's already been moved off."

The Fire Department answered 34 calls for water evacuation from Manoa to Pauoa and Kahala to Makiki, said Capt. Chris Ah Mook Sang, HFD spokesman. One call came after a tree fell across University Avenue near Volcano Joe's restaurant. A witness said no cars were damaged and no people were injured, but makai-bound traffic was temporarily blocked.

Landslides and flooding also closed roads in Kailua, Lanikai and Waimanalo, according to police. Both lanes into Kailua on Kailua Road were temporarily closed because of rockslides at three locations, police said. Flooding also closed Kapa'a Quarry Road and Kalaniana'ole Highway at Bellows Air Force Station and a landslide and flooding at the entrance to Lanikai temporarily closed the only road to that community, police said. Vehicles had to be towed from the flooded area.

Mark Paikuli-Stride, a Maunawili farmer and head of the Aloha 'Aina Health Center, said the rain damaged roads into the valley and forced him to postpone school activities at his taro farm.

"We're learning a lot about the land and about the role of the water on the land and how we need to deal with this kind of weather," Paikuli-Stride said. "There's always a learning experience involved."

The prolonged rainy weather is causing problems with Hawaiian Telcom's phone system statewide, and the company is asking residents to be patient while the repairs are made.

Ann Nishida, Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman, said yesterday many customers are experiencing heavy static or no service. Problems were especially bad in East Honolulu, Kaimuki, Manoa, Waipahu and Nanakuli, she said.

"Sometimes when the line has time to dry up, the problem does go away. But there's been no time for anything to dry up," she said.

Nishida said anyone with problems should call the repair center at 611.

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.