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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 5, 2006

Wretched weather is old stuff

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Old-timers in Honolulu are trying to remember if it's ever rained more than 40 days and 40 nights like our recent biblical marathon of precipitation. My newspaper index that goes back to 1840 indicates that the length of this rainstorm may be a record but there have been plenty of wild storms.

So far as flooding, before the Ala Wai was dug, Manoa and Palolo streams ran through to the beach and Waikiki flooded with every heavy rain. I remember old-time newspaperman Jazz Belknap telling me he rowed from his cottage to work.

The storm of 1900 comes closest in duration to our storm. It lasted from the middle to the end of November. It was shorter but more violent, strong wind with heavy rain.

On Nov. 27, The Advertiser reported that Kapi'olani Park was 2 feet under water. All of Queen Street on the waterfront was flooded. A man in Kaka'ako, an area noted for flooding, opened his door and a mullet swam in. When the water subsided, nine fat mullet were left high and dry in his yard. He had a feast.

Downtown, water filled the basement of Hart & Co. where they made candy. Nu'uanu Stream swept away everything not nailed down. Chicken coops ended up on the waterfront. Waialua and Wai'anae were isolated from Honolulu because floods washed out the tracks of the Oahu Railway & Land Co.

In those days, people depended on steamships, not airplanes, to get to the Neighbor Islands and the Mainland. The wind was so strong that the ocean liner Doric waited until daylight to sail. Then the pilot was unable to get ashore from the ship off Diamond Head.

The small government tug, Eleu, sent out to fetch him, couldn't buck the huge waves and almost went on the reef. The Fearless, the Navy's powerful tug, went out and rescued the pilot.

Storms have always been big news in Our Honolulu. In 1927, hail, rain and lightning put 900 telephones out of order on O'ahu. A severe storm in 1918 washed away five bridges, ruined rice fields and blocked the Hamakua Coast Railroad. In Honolulu Harbor, three ships were saved in the nick of time. Two people in Honolulu died, many were injured and streets were blocked by falling trees.

A cloudburst in 1921 washed homes in Palolo from their foundations and swept away 13 bridges. Mayor Johnny Wilson said he'd never seen it rain so hard, 20 inches in 24 hours at Maunawili.

A windstorm in 1902 wrecked piers, caused steamers to almost go aground and blew down 95 trees in Kapi'olani Park. A windstorm in 1914 knocked down the 'Iolani Palace flagpole and flattened the little gingerbread grandstand on the Makiki Baseball Diamond, Honolulu's first stadium.

According to a story in The Advertiser on Feb. 14, 1904, the worst storms before that were in 1858, 1885, 1887, 1892, 1895, 1898 and 1901.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.