Dennis Inouye looked at a small but raging stream that flooded his Hilo home yesterday. Hilo and Kauai bore the brunt of the weekend's downpours.
Rainstorms: Big Island and Kauai clean up
150 homes damaged
Flood-protection measures proved to be inadequate during last weekend's deluge
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HILO » When flood waters hit the home of retired police Maj. Jay Enanoria before daybreak Saturday, he jumped out of bed and into action.
Downpour on isles
Here are rainfall totals for the 24-hour period ending at 8:45 a.m. yesterday:
Mount Waialeale:13.4 inches
Hilo Airport:11.86 inches
Waiakea Uka: 10.11 inches
Pahoa: 10.26 inches
Kapapala Ranch: 9.91 inches
Glenwood: 9.54 inches
Source: National Weather Service
"This is the third time we've been flooded," he said, standing in his garage below street level. "I knew immediately what I needed to do -- get my cars out of here."
Enanoria saved his car and his truck, but the brand new laminate floor in his living room was under water for several hours. Now the water is gone but the wood is starting to buckle.
Enanoria's neighbor Jack Lee showed why it happened. Behind Lee's house is a drainage channel that couldn't contain the flood.
Uphill from Lee, one homeowner after another showed a series of flood protection projects, none of them big enough to handle the nearly three feet of rain that fell from Friday night to Monday morning.
Civil Defense officials estimated that up to 150 homes were damaged and most of them were in the Waiakea area.
On Kauai, state and county workers began cleaning up from Sunday's heavy rains from Princeville to Haena yesterday morning.
A heavy period of rain for both islands was the 24 hours ending at 8:45 a.m. yesterday.
The National Weather Service continued its flash flood watch through last night for all the islands and may be continuing it through today, but there was no immediate threat last night.
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Keali'i Martins waded through floodwaters in his aunt's yard in Hilo yesterday as cousin Ala Medeiros watched from her dry porch. Hilo got more than 20 inches of rain over 48 hours.
Flood had a familiar sinking feeling to it
HILO » When a flash flood stormed into retired police Maj. Jay Enanoria's garage at 3:30 a.m. Saturday, water reached his shins as he jumped first into his truck and moments later into his wife's car to drive them to high ground.
The flood of 2000 was a lot worse, with water up to his stomach, Enanoria recalled. His wife was recovering from surgery, so he and a neighbor had to drag her through the water to safety.
Over a three-day period, about 33 inches fell on the Waiakea area, causing Waiakea Stream to run over its banks in various areas along its path. Civil Defense officials estimated that up to 150 homes were damaged and most of them were in the Waiakea area.
As the weather calmed down yesterday, residents in the upper Waiakea area of Hilo remembered the 2000 flood and another in 1994.
They also surveyed a series of ditches and retaining walls built to protect homes along a two-mile stretch of the stream.
The three storms of 1994, 2000 and the past weekend demonstrated that protections in place weren't big enough to do the job.
Across the street from Enanoria, on slightly higher ground, neighbor Jack Lee was raking gravel from a narrow inlet that was supposed to let water flow into a culvert under the street instead of into Enanoria's garage.
Lee showed a drainage ditch behind his house, and an 18-inch high wall that was supposed to keep flood water inside it. Lee knew from experience that it wouldn't be big enough in an emergency and had built a 36-inch-high wall around three sides of his property.
His house was the only one in the immediate area that didn't get flooded.
Two houses away, Lee's neighbor John Luuwai showed where a wide natural gulch fed into the narrow drainage ditch that was supposed to save their houses.
Between them lies the house of Chris Chang, the block captain whose duty it is to call neighbors when the water comes over the wall. Enanoria had less than a minute to get his vehicles out of his low-lying garage.
"I'm in my pajamas. It's a flash flood. By the time I get to the garage, it's already up to my knees," he said.
This wasn't supposed to happen. Enanoria researched the area thoroughly before buying his lot, and it was not in a flood zone. He learned later that it had been designated as a flood zone earlier but was removed for unknown reasons.
A half-mile uphill, a woman who identified herself only as the daughter of contractor Buddy Azevedo showed a similar drainage ditch behind her brother's house. This one didn't have an 18-inch wall to bolster it.
Water from Waiakea Stream had topped an old railroad right-of-way that acted as a dam, spread across uphill pastures, swamped the ditch, and flowed 16 inches high through the brother's house. The carport was filled with boxes of water-damaged items and a pickup truck was piled with soggy, rotting carpeting.
Azevedo himself could barely contain his anger during a phone call. "I'm kinda shook up," he said. "Fourteen years this is going on."
Farther uphill, Greg Aiona was happy to be able to leave his home. In the late 1960s, three culverts were built to carry Waiakea water under the private road that leads to his house.
Three weren't enough. Water covered the road and trapped him for over 30 hours, he said. Yesterday, he and family members waded through the shallow, flooded area near his house, while the main stream roared into the biggest culvert.
Wading may have been the most fun anyone was having. Enanoria was thinking about the rains that could come again in the night.
"All these people, they don't sleep," he said. "You know the trauma that goes on. You never feel like your home is safe."
He has heard that that officials have new projects under discussion. "They're going to have to do something," he said.
After the flood
The American Red Cross recommends these safeguards to those affected by flooding:
» Remove excess moisture and standing water to inhibit the growth of mold.
» Open doors and windows to air your home.
» Thoroughly clean items contaminated with flood water.
» Clean open wounds or cuts in contact with flood water with soap and water, and apply anti-bacterial ointment.
» Do not allow children to play in places or with toys exposed to flood water.
For more information, visit www.hawaiiredcross.org or call 739-8133.