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

Water 'had a really big power' on Kalakaua

 •  Homes, roads from Makiki to Kane'ohe inundated

By William Cole
Advertiser Staff Writer

PAWA'A The Makiki ditch along Kalakaua Avenue was a fast-moving flume of dirty brown water yesterday when the torrent of rain that had come down over the past hour threatened to overwhelm its banks again.

Officer Nelson Tamayori, keeping traffic off Kalakaua at Philip Street, had no sooner radioed in the warning at about 12:30 p.m. when floodwaters up to a foot deep suddenly swamped the mauka-bound lanes of Kalakaua.

The sidewalk in front of a row of shops was covered by a new river.

A beige stucco two-story home on the corner had rapids churning across its driveway. Fortunately for the homeowner, the residence was just outside the water's direct path.

"I've never seen it like this before, ever," said Tamayori, who has lived on O'ahu his whole life. "This is a first for me."

Restaurant Michinoku employees walked barefoot through a couple inches of water. Chairs were stacked on tables where patrons normally would be sitting.

A sediment line on the wall revealed that the water earlier had been a foot deep. Only the handrail was visible where steps descended to an underwater basement room.

"Double damage. The water came in and we stopped the customers. We stopped the business," said employee Michelle Naugle. "We tried to fight the water this morning, but the water had a really big power."

Owner Isamu Kato doesn't have insurance to cover the damage, but hopes to re-open Monday.

"It can't be helped," he said about the floodwaters.

Mopeds Plus had sandbags piled several high across their front door.

"Last Friday, about 7:30 p.m. (the water also broke free)," said employee Jerry Washington, 32. "But this is the second time in one day."

Although the shop floor was wet, it was nothing compared to the moat that surrounded the front of the strip mall. In the back, the open Makiki drainage ditch funneled into a culvert.

The water backed up into the parking lot behind the shops, leaving a half-foot of sludge when it receded, along with tree limbs, an overturned Dumpster and two 8-foot sections of telephone pole that had come from somewhere.

The floodwaters had burst through a cinder block wall in the back.

"This stuff's crazy," said Matt Jimenez, 20, another co-worker.

In Manoa, the bridge and railing crossing Woodlawn Drive near the Manoa Marketplace was festooned with tree branches from floodwaters that had risen several feet and crested the bridge, but had subsided by 2 p.m.

Woodlawn Drive was flooded for hundreds of feet in both directions, and a black Chrysler PT Cruiser that had been submerged to the top of its wheels sported a new viney undercarriage.

Residents said it was a far cry from the floods of October 2004 that washed away several cars and poured through the University of Hawai'i's Manoa campus downstream. Workers said the stream did not cause flooding at UH yesterday.

O'ahu Civil Defense District 1 coordinator Gary Masumoto was on the scene at Woodlawn Drive to monitor the floodwaters.

At least four houses on O'ahu Avenue "got totally flooded,"

Masumoto said. "It was a river coming through there."

There was concern for one elderly woman, and arrangements were made to get her out of her house, he said.

On the 3000 block of O'ahu Avenue, Eric Lonborg slogged around in high rubber boots after floodwaters that normally course through an old drainage ditch behind his 1950s two-story home poured through neighboring yards and onto his property.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.