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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 4:43 p.m., Friday, March 3, 2006

Flash flood watch canceled

By Mike Gordon and Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writers

Runoff from heavy overnight rains kept the Pali Highway's Kailua-bound lanes closed through early this afternoon, threatening rush-hour problems, although the National Weather Service canceled a flash flood warning.

State civil defense officials late this morning said 23 inches of rain fell in Punalu'u over the previous 48-hour period. Damage assessments are underway, but no serious injuries have been reported.

State vice director of civil defense Ed Teixeira said officials confirmed between 10 to 20 homes flooded but estimate that tally will rise after the water recedes and a more accurate damage assessment can be conducted.

Gov. Linda Lingle said no damage estimate is available but an emergency declaration issued last night will allow low-interest loans and other assistance to become available to those hardest hit by the heavy rains.

Teixeira said the most flooding occurred on O'ahu between Kahuku and Kahalu'u.

The Pali Highway was closed at mid-day and could remain closed during rush hour because a waterfall on the Kailua side of the Pali tunnels was landing onto the right lane, said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

"We can't open up the road until the waterfall recedes," he said. "Until someone turns off the firehose, I don't think we can open up the highway. It will be touch and go for rush hour."

"The only good news that we have is that the weather has lightened up," Teixeira said.

As of mid-day, the only road problems were:

• Kailua-bound lanes of the Pali Highway, which had closed this morning because of a landslide and flooding that occurred about midnight near the tunnels, police said. Officers turned back Kailua-bound motorists at Waokanaka Road.

• Kapa'a Quarry Road also was closed between Kalaniana'ole Highway and Mokapu Boulevard because of flooding. Vehicles are being allowed into Le Jardin Academy, however.

Earlier, Kamehameha Highway was closed in both directions from Waikane Valley to Punalu'u, but reopened at about 8:15 a.m. today, police said.

"There is still a lot of debris and runoff crossing roads from streams and rivers on windward O'ahu," said John Cummings, spokesman for O'ahu Civil Defense. "The weather service extended the flash flood warning not because of the rain, but because of the continuing runoff from the Ko'olaus. It is flowing pretty solid right now."

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012 and Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.