More storms forecast as isles dry out from deluge
City crews work to clear streams and drainage culverts to prevent flooding
Back-to-back storms are expected to hit the state starting Wednesday, allowing little time for parts of Kauai and Oahu hit hard by heavy rains last week to dry out.
Meanwhile, long-range models indicate that the wet weather could stick around through early April.
"If you live in low-lying areas, be prepared," said state Civil Defense Vice Director Ed Teixeira at a news conference yesterday at the agency's headquarters. "I wish I had better news."
The islands have been hammered by five storms in the last four weeks thanks to persistently unstable air, which is ripe for the creation of heavy thundershowers.
From Kauai to the Big Island, flooding has closed roads, ruined crops and threatened communities. One storm on Oahu's Windward Coast caused an estimated $5 million in damage to homes.
Forecasters say the storms have drenched parts of the state with more rain than they normally would get in months.
Mount Waialeale on Kauai has seen 116 inches of rain in the last four weeks, while 40 inches have fallen on Poamoho. Glenwood on the Big Island has gotten an average of 10 inches a week.
In the latest storm to hit the islands, which started Wednesday afternoon and lasted through last night, more than 9 inches of rain fell on Moloaa in Kauai, and Glenwood saw 7 inches.
In all, 39 gauges in spots across the state measured more than 4 inches of rain over the five-day period, the National Weather Service said in a statement yesterday.
Rain likely will return over the state midweek, possibly as early as Tuesday night.
Weather service lead forecaster Bob Farrell said there could be a break in the rain on Friday, but heavy showers are expected to return with a second storm on Saturday.
Forecasters cannot yet predict which islands will be most affected by the storms, so are urging residents statewide to expect flooding.
"We could continue to face problems of flooding, mudslides, road closures," Oahu Civil Defense spokesman John Cummings said.
With some sunshine expected today and tomorrow, officials said they will start planning for the coming storms and use any respite in the rain to clear debris from roadways and streams.
Across Oahu, city crews were to work today and tomorrow on clearing streams and drainage culverts.
"I think most of the choke points stayed pretty clear this time around (in yesterday's rains)," said city spokesman Bill Brennan. "We know where they are, and we watch the weather forecast and try to be out there in advance of those things."
Also today, the state Department of Transportation planned to close town-bound lanes of Likelike Highway's Wilson Tunnel from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to continue clearing mud and rocks threatening to fall on the roadway after a landslide last week.
On Kauai, state crews were expected to start inspecting dams this morning, checking for any potential structural hazards. And Teixeira said FEMA workers, along with state and Kauai County officials, would likely begin the work of estimating damage from the Ka Loko Dam break and other flooding from heavy rains.
A team inspected flood-ravaged communities on Oahu's Windward Coast on Saturday but did not release a damage estimate.
The assessments will help Gov. Linda Lingle determine whether to ask President Bush for a federal disaster declaration, which would secure federal funds to help in cleanup and rebuilding efforts.
Also, state Civil Defense officials are hoping to set up a disaster recovery center for Kalaheo residents tomorrow, if weather permits. A similar center will be set up as early as next week in Kilauea, where 330 million gallons of floodwaters from Ka Loko Dam swept away seven people and two homes.