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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Storm floods roads, cuts power

By Curtis Lum and Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writers

Lightning lit up O'ahu skies last night and heavy rain drenched portions of the island, causing minor flooding and mudslides.

A flash-flood watch remained in effect for O'ahu, Kaua'i, Maui and Moloka'i through this morning, although a flash-flood warning a more serious advisory level for O'ahu was canceled about 10 last night.

The rain is expected to continue today, with the weather service calling for showers throughout the day with a chance of isolated thunderstorms. The weather is forecast to improve slightly tomorrow with scattered windward and mountain showers and isolated leeward showers.

The heaviest rain last night was reported in Nu'uanu, where a gauge recorded rain falling at a rate of 4 inches per hour at about 8 p.m.

O'ahu Civil Defense and police were kept busy as ponding was reported on many roads. High water in Mapunapuna closed the area near Kilihau Street, and a mudslide shut down one lane of 'Alewa Drive last night.

Two bolts of lightning struck a Hawaiian Electric Co. power line in the Kalaeloa area last night, causing a momentary outage, said HECO spokesman Jose Dizon.

Hawaiian Electric Co. also responded to a 10:20 a.m. power failure that affected about 2,300 Kane'ohe customers yesterday. Tree branches fell on power lines near 44-600 Kane'ohe Bay Drive causing a 40-minute blackout, Dizon said.

A HECO crew cut the tree limbs and re-energized the lines, Dizon said. A similar problem hit the Kane'ohe area Sunday during the rain, but the company wasn't able to identify the cause, he said.

"It's probably a combination of rain and the tree," Dizon said.

Earlier yesterday, Kaua'i was hit hard as the storm moved from west to east. Kuhio Highway outside Hanalei Town was closed by flooding almost all day yesterday during islandwide downpours that caused landslides and flooded homes.

Two homes along the Waikomo River in Koloa sustained minor flooding damage when that river rose over its banks, said Civil Defense Coordinator Mark Marshall.

The National Weather Service rainfall summary showed more than 18 inches fell at Wai'ale'ale in the 24 hours ending at 2 p.m. yesterday. The gauges recorded 8 inches along the Hanalei River, where water flowing off taro patches covered Kuhio Highway, closing off access between Princeville and Hanalei Town on the island's north side.

More than an inch of rain fell from about 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. yesterday in Punalu'u on O'ahu. Eric Ana of Ka'a'awa said his yard was covered with several inches of water from the downpour, immersing his cesspool and causing a backup. The rain, falling since Sunday, has saturated the ground and was pooling in the yard and on the street, Ana said.

"We cannot use our toilet because of the backup," Ana said, adding that his family of five will use restrooms at a nearby park despite concerns about the sanitary conditions caused by the backup.

DeeDee Letts, a Ko'olauloa Neighborhood Board member representing Ka'a'awa, said there are many cesspools in the area, and when there's heavy rain, they are overwhelmed and they "float."

Much of the problem is caused by poor drainage in the community and along the highway, Letts said.

"When you have a highway that's higher than the land behind it, it acts like a dam," she said, adding that she would ask the state Department of Transportation to provide more culverts under the road to allow better drainage.

The continuous rains caused the state Department of Health to issue a brown-water advisory for all coastal waters on Kaua'i and for Windward O'ahu waters from Waimanalo to Kahuku Point, said Kymm Solchaga, DOH spokeswoman.

"The water can contain contaminants and sewage from overflowing sewer manholes," Solchaga said.

Advertiser Kaua'i reporter Jan TenBruggencate contributed to this report.

Reach Curtis Lum at culum@honoluluadvertiser.com and Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.