Storm ties up traffic, disrupts isle schools
A flash-flood watch remains in effect for most of the state
The threat of thundershowers from a storm that has saturated the ground with heavy rain for the last two days hangs over Kauai, Oahu and Maui.
Besides triggering a landslide that closed the Pali Highway, the storm caused sewage spills, a few accidents and minor flooding. It also sent public school students, state and city workers home early, snarled traffic and generated fears of a possible tornado.
WHAT A MESS
MIRED IN MUD
Pali Highway is blocked after rains send down mud, rocks and trees
Warnings are posted at Kaneohe Bay due to spills and brown runoff
A Molokai school shuts and a few afterschool programs call parents in
Oahu traffic snarls and a Kauai bridge closure causes hours of delay
Tornado rumors are dispelled but threat of thundershowers stays
HOW HIGH'S THE WATER?
Some rainfall totals for the 24-hour period ending at 8 p.m. yesterday:
MOUNT WAIALEALE (KAUAI) - 9.5"
ST. STEPHEN'S - 7.53"
WAIHEE - 4.99"
AHUIMANU - 6.19"
LULUKU - 8.04"
WILSON TUNNEL - 9.39"
MAUNAWILI - 2.53"
HANALEI RIVER (KAUAI) - 4.09"
Source: National Weather Service
A flash-flood watch remains in effect for most of the state, except for the Big Island.
The National Weather Service said yesterday that it was monitoring the storm for the potential of tornadoes, a rarity in Hawaii. However, no tornadoes developed and no watch was issued.
Still, rumors spread yesterday afternoon, generating some anxiety.
Oahu Civil Defense spokesman John Cummings said the agency fielded several calls from people wondering when and where the tornado was going to hit. "It was mostly for us a lot of rumor controlling," Cummings said.
"There was a brief concern (about tornados) and then I think a lot of people found out about it and word spread fast," said Robert Ballard, a forecaster at the weather service, last night. "We're not thinking that there's a possibility of tornados at this point."
Ballard said the heaviest rain appeared to be moving toward Maui last night, but there was still the possibility of heavy showers forming over Oahu and Kauai.
The Oahu Civil Defense Agency continued to monitor the storm through the night, city officials said.
Kilohana Elementary School on Molokai closed yesterday because it was inaccessible due to flooded roads, said Greg Knudsen, spokesman for the state Department of Education.
School normally ends early on Wednesday, but some A-Plus after-school programs including Nanakuli Elementary School and Kahuku Elementary School began calling parents to pick up their children early because of weather and traffic conditions.
Knudsen emphasized that staff remained on duty until all the children were picked up.
People looking for ways to get to the Windward side slowed traffic on Likelike Highway.
Tali Lanaki, of Kalihi Valley, took nearly an hour to drive the usual 25-minute drive from Hawaii Kai, where he works as a landscaper.
"It's bad," Lanaki said while stopped at the Likelike Highway and School Street intersection, noting that he even left work one hour early to beat the rush-hour traffic.
City officials said buses normally using Pali Highway would continue to be diverted to Likelike Highway today. Affected routes are Nos. 55, 56, 57 and 65.
The city Department of Environmental Services reported about 2,250 gallons of sewage spilled between 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. yesterday at the Kaneohe Pretreatment Facility. About 550 gallons spilled at 8:45 a.m. when untreated wastewater overflowed from a manhole before the influent pump station, a city news release said.
An additional 1,500 gallons overflowed from another manhole between 9 and 10 a.m., but was contained on the facility's grounds. Some 200 gallons of waste water is also believed to have overflowed elsewhere on the facility grounds about 10:40 a.m. Warning signs were posted at Kaneohe Bay, the city said.
The state Department of Health also issued a "brown water advisory," letting residents know that stream and oceans may be polluted because of the heavy rain.
The Health Department advised people to stay out the water where runoff has occurred for the next several days.
Waterfalls streamed down the Koolau Mountains yesterday after heavy rains fell. CLICK FOR LARGE
Heavy rain on the Garden Isle led to the closure of Hanalei Bridge and was a factor in a traffic accident that backed up traffic for hours in the Kapaa-Lihue area.
About 11:30 a.m., a Kapaa-bound motorist lost control of his vehicle and hit a utility pole near the Wailua Golf Course, police said. The driver was not hurt, but the top of the pole, along with the connecting wires, were left hanging over Kuhio Highway, closing one lane of the highway.
Utility workers fixed the pole, and traffic was back to normal by the afternoon rush hour.
The Hanalei Bridge, which closed about noon, reopened by 5 p.m., said county public information officer Mary Daubert.
Meanwhile, state Civil Defense had to rely on a backup radio system yesterday to feed flood advisories and other information to stations after a contractor accidentally cut into a phone line used by the agency to send the messages, said spokesman Ray Lovell.
Stations, however, were able to get bulletins from the National Weather Service and Civil Defense throughout the day without problem, said Chuck Cotton, vice president and general manager of Clear Channel Hawaii.
Reporters Alex DaSilva, Tom Finnegan, Rob Shikina and Diana Leone contributed to this story.