Monday, November 1, 2004

Brian Shigemoto crawled out from the flood-tossed lower room of the house belonging to his mother, Elaine, yesterday in Manoa. The Pamoa Road home was damaged by rain-driven floodwaters Saturday night.

Lingle declares
flood disaster

UH-Manoa cancels
classes today as massive
cleanup work begins

With floodwaters rising at 1 1/2 inches a minute, University of Hawaii student Loraine Oribio smashed a metal stool against a large ground-floor window of Hamilton Library so she, 19 other students and their professor could escape.

"It was scary," said Oribio.

"Had it been 10 to 15 minutes later, we would've been under that debris," said her classmate Marta Wiggins, who looked yesterday at a broken computer chair and other equipment poking out of the hole they escaped through Saturday night.

Gov. Linda Lingle signed a state disaster proclamation yesterday after the University of Hawaii, Noelani Elementary School and many Manoa residents were devastated by a rainstorm that many described as the worst ever to sweep over the valley.

Almost 10 inches of rain fell over Manoa on Saturday night. A minivan and two cars parked along Woodlawn Drive were pushed against a large tree near the Manoa Stream. A concrete rail footbridge at Pawaina Street was also taken out by the force of the rushing water.

Tim Craig, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service, said thunderstorms are possible for Oahu today.

"It's still a bit unstable," he said. Some thunderstorms occurred in Central Oahu and over the Waianae mountains yesterday afternoon.

Lingle, along with city, state and federal officials, visited the university and Manoa residents yesterday to get an assessment. Personal and commercial loans will be made available to those affected by the storm. The disaster proclamation also activates the state's major disaster fund to provide immediate relief.

State Adjutant General Robert Lee said officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency also began assessing the damage yesterday.

Lee said the extent of the damage is worse than that caused in Mapunapuna by a storm last year.

More homes are affected, as well as the University of Hawaii and Noelani Elementary, said Lee.

Classes at UH-Manoa were canceled for today due to the flood damage. Students can call 956-0001 for updates.

Sidewalks along Woodlawn Drive in Manoa were littered with debris and covered in mud.

UH President David McClain, who has been at the Manoa campus for the past 15 years, said he "can't remember a storm of this magnitude on campus."

McClain said a "wall of water" swept over the campus from the Biomedical Sciences building to the Athletics Complex building, damaging as many as 35 buildings.

At Hamilton Library, staff members worked to save rare maps and photos housed in the government documents and maps department on the ground. The rushing waters moved some metal cabinets that weigh as much as a compact car.

"This is far worse than I could ever imagine happening," said Gwen Sinclair, head of the government and maps department at the library.

The storm also affected the university's computer server, shutting down Internet and e-mail access.

Some Manoa Valley residents also broke through windows to escape the rising water.

Eighty-four-year-old Elaine Shigemoto, who lives on the 2600 block of Pamoa Road, was watching television when the strong water current broke her kitchen window.

Shigemoto held onto a couch and the rafters as six feet of water filled her Manoa home. She and her dog, Nico, were rescued by a firefighter and a neighbor.

Family, friends and neighbors assisted the Shigemoto family as they cleaned their home.

"We almost lost a life last night. ... We don't care about the material things," said Shigemoto's daughter-in-law, Corrine.

Workers cleaned up flood damage yesterday in an office at Noelani School on Woodlawn Drive. At left, Bryce Minato walked through flood debris in the back yard of a home on Pamoa Road. The property belongs to his grandmother-in-law, Elaine Shigemoto.

Across the street, the Izumoto family said they were still in shock after mud and water tore through their house and lifted their tool shed's concrete foundation.

A hibiscus hedge about 3 1/2 feet high was submerged in water in a matter of minutes, said Leonard Izumoto, who has lived at the Pamoa Road home since 1979.

"The water was rising so fast. The current was so strong. We couldn't get out," he said.

Izumoto broke his jalousie window in their laundry room so he and his wife, Joan, could escape and head to higher ground.

"Everything that we have is gone," said Izumoto, who estimates damage to his home and belongings at more than $100,000.

At Noelani Elementary School, mud covered the parking lot. The storm caused damage to the administration building, one of the classroom buildings, cafeteria and two portable classrooms.

Administrators, teachers, parents and other volunteers helped clean up the mess.

Principal Fred Yoshinaga said the school was already scheduled to be closed today for a teachers' professional day. However, officials have not determined whether the library will be used as a polling place tomorrow.



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