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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 7, 2006

Post-rain headaches for Islands

By Lee Cataluna
Advertiser Columnist

We might have been tempted to think that our troubles were over once the rain stopped and the threat of flooding went away, but there are all sorts of situations that come up in the days, weeks, even months after heavy rains.

Even during the past days of blessed sun, mold has sprouted, sewage has lingered and all sorts of foulness has festered in streams, drainage canals and beaches.

Various critters are known to show up where they're not supposed to be after a big rain. Rats, mice and centipedes get spooked out of their usual holes by the rain and start looking for a dry place to hang out. Mongooses cruise the suburbs, poking their scrubby heads into garages and dog dishes.

But the thing they're really concerned about at the Department of Health's Vector Control Branch is all that standing water in flower pots and puddles and rain gutters, providing the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

"Mosquitoes can breed in very small amounts of water (2 to 3 tablespoons), so it is very important to find and clear away all standing water on your property," the Department of Health advises.

With that in mind, you're to clean leaves and sticks and limu and junk from your rain gutters, throw out any old tires lying around your property (yeah, and you thought you were the only one with old tires stacked up by the side of the house, right?); tip over wheelbarrows, pots, buckets and any other containers so they don't collect or hold water, and clean out plants like bromeliads (you know, those that have little places in the folds of the leaves that form tiny swimming pools for bugs) by shooting them down with the water hose a couple of times a week.

While you're at it, they tell you to protect yourself and your family by fixing broken window screens, using bug spray with DEET or Picaridin and wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts.

Eh, and keep your eye out for rodentia. The combination of wet weather followed by dry months has led to rat and mouse infestations on leeward sides of the islands in the past.

In August 2002, residents of Kihei and Maui Meadows and parts of Upcountry Maui were buying out rat traps and vying for exterminators' attention. The rodent population swells after heavy rains. When drought comes, the herds of nasty toenailed feet come tramping out of the dry brush and into civilization in search of something to eat. One Maui Meadows resident reported dozens of mice finding their way into his swimming pool every day. He'd find them trapped in the filter, clogging up the vacuum hose, floating on the pool toys.

That hasn't happened yet. Just something to look out for.

For now, we can get rid of that standing water, scrub the mildew off the walls and be grateful it isn't raining.

Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or lcataluna@honoluluadvertiser.com.