CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Sun broke through gathering clouds yesterday afternoon at Maunalua Bay as a kayaker paddled by. Forecasters said the storm system's heaviest showers should arrive today.
State and city agencies urge caution as rains arrive
Tropical Depression Kenneth came early last night, drenching parts of Oahu with passing showers and giving residents a taste of the heavy rains forecast to persist through tomorrow night.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for all islands yesterday which is in effect through tomorrow. Residents should expect the heaviest showers today.
Ways to stay safe in case of heavy rain
» Use sandbags, plywood and plastic sheeting to protect property.
» If a flash flood warning is issued, get to higher ground. Do not wait for evacuation instructions if you think you are in danger.
» Do not drive across flooded roads or bridges as they could wash out.
» If your car stalls in the water, abandon it immediately and get to higher ground. It takes only a foot or two of fast-moving water to sweep away a vehicle.
» Don't walk or play in floodwaters. You can be knocked from your feet in water only 6 inches deep.
» Keep an eye on children during heavy rains, especially if you live near culverts, streams or canals.
» If you experience a flood-related emergency, call 911.
Source: Oahu Civil Defense Agency
The tropical depression, which was about 245 miles east of Hilo last night, was originally expected to start bringing rain to Oahu today. But bands of moisture from the storm arrived early, interacting with an unstable upper-level system over the islands that is expected to stick around through the weekend.
"The depression is providing the moisture, and the system is providing the instability," said National Weather Service forecaster Peter Donaldson. "The main thing we want people to pay attention to is the possibility of heavy rain."
Last night, showers were situated in spots across Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island. Rain gauge summaries were not immediately available.
The heavy rains left about 400 customers in the Kewalo area without power for about two hours last night after water seeped onto underground cables, a Hawaiian Electric Co. spokeswoman said.
Tim Craig, weather service lead forecaster, said winds up to 35 mph could also be possible in places. "We are anticipating that the rain will be more of a problem than the wind," he said, "but we can't displace the wind this early."
The Oahu Civil Defense Agency was gearing up for the storm yesterday afternoon, putting volunteers on call and planning for possible evacuations.
John Cummings, civil defense spokesman, said volunteers have already cleared streams and other waterways in anticipation of the storm.
"Given the water that the weather service is forecasting, we are concerned with flooding," Cummings said. "When you're driving the streets and highways, just a light rain will cause ponding. I would just minimize driving or cancel trips as much as possible."
Other city agencies, including the Police and Fire departments, are also preparing for the rain, and their response will be a good test of the city's preparedness for more severe storms, Mayor Mufi Hannemann said yesterday.
"I think this exercise is going to be very good," he said. "We're going to see if we have any shortcomings or defects."
The mayor canceled "Sunset on the Plains" yesterday, which was to be held tomorrow and Sunday in Kapolei. The event has been rescheduled for next weekend.
Also yesterday, state workers cleared out debris from Waikane Stream to guard against problems in heavy rain.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said the crews will be on standby through the weekend.
Meanwhile, hardware stores across the island have seen increased demand for stormy-weather supplies.
"We have been getting requests for sandbags, batteries, flashlights, hurricane lanterns, oil lamps and generators," said Micah Roquiero, a marketing coordinator at Safety Systems Hawaii in Kalihi.
A Home Depot sales associate said dozens of customers have asked for hurricane kits during the last few days, but the store does not sell them.
Kenneth is expected to dissipate into an unnamed system tonight but will still have lots of moisture for heavy showers, Donaldson said. As the system weakens, it will continue to move westward away from the islands.
By Saturday night the islands will start to dry out. "The moisture will decrease," Donaldson said, "and the instability will go away."
Kenneth started as a hurricane in the eastern Pacific and, on Sunday, became the second named storm to move into the Central Pacific this year.
Star-Bulletin reporter Crystal Kua contributed to this article.