TALES FROM THE FLOOD
Record-setting rainfall rattles nerves – and it’s not over yet
From Moloaa to Princeville on Sunday, residents emerged from sleepless nights with some of the heaviest rain on record on Kauai and thunder so intense it shook houses as badly as a severe earthquake.
Ironically, I’d spent Saturday in a Kauai Fire Department training session in Lihue as a member of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
Every year shortly before hurricane season, KFD schedules training for us to refresh skills we may need in the coming months. Saturday’s session was on traffic management and crowd control. The storm grew more intense as the day evolved and by late afternoon, all of us were hearing
from friends and acquaintances from Hanalei to Haena who gave vivid accounts of homes literally washing away.
People rushed to Facebook and saw video showing much of Hanalei under water. Black Pot Beach, at the Hanalei Pier, had dissolved into a raging channel as the Hanalei River seemed to have completely changed course — possibly permanently.
Overturned and flooded vehicles littered the beach. Strangely, a bison was seen standing in the surf.
For those of us cut off on the North Shore, but not as far as from Hanalei to the end of the road, the scene evolved in bizarre ways filled with intense uncertainty about the welfare of friends.
For a couple of hours, Kuhio Highway was cut between Kilauea and Princeville after a storm drain was reportedly stopped up. Before the road was reopened, traffic had backed up more than two miles.
When the highway was finally again available, a waterfall that usually goes unnoticed by most passing drivers was gushing mist into both traffic lanes, with brown raging water seemingly about to sever the roadway.
Perhaps the most shocking perspective was in a mapping app maintained by an organization called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, based in Colorado. Each day, more than 10,000 volunteers across the country post precipitation information to a central site. I’m something of a weather geek, so I’ve been a member of CoCoRaHS, as it’s called, for 10 years.
On Sunday morning, it showed a report from Hanalei of more than 36 inches of rain. I think I know the volunteer who posted it and we all tend to be anal in our effort to maintain accurate records. So I believe that much rain actually did fall in Hanalei. More than 9 inches was recorded in Kapaa and more than 5 inches in two different locations in Kilauea, including my house.
But for those of us in Kilauea, it was the intensity of the rain and the shockwaves from the thunder that were most disconcerting.
A neighbor across the street, who works as a restaurant hostess at the St. Regis Princeville Resort, was getting ready for work at about 5 a.m. when she felt the same incredibly loud clap of thunder I did. It almost knocked her off her feet.
It was almost with relief that she found out Kuhio Highway was closed and she wouldn’t be able to get to work. My neighbor is originally from Northern California and I lived in the Los Angeles area for 30 years.
Between us, we are more than a little familiar with earthquakes. But that particular clap of thunder was so incredible that we both figured it would have registered at least 6.0, and maybe 6.5, on the Richter scale — a substantial sized temblor.
Along the Kalihiwai River, police went from house to house warning residents to evacuate because of concern that a reservoir in the hills above might collapse. They feared an incident like the 2006 failure of the Kaloko Reservoir that sent water crashing down Kilauea Stream, sweeping seven victims to their deaths.
The river at Kalihiwai beach had reshaped its banks, sweeping away gigantic pine trees, which were being washed by the surf. When the rain stopped for a couple of hours, two young men emerged from a vacation rental home so apparently fearful they were ashen