Honolulu Star-Bulletin Local News

A grass shack in an Aiea watercress farm is surrounded by
a tide of muddy water yesterday

Photo by Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin

Deluge floods roads,
cuts power

Approaching storms and saturated ground
could mean more trouble for an
already-soaked Oahu

By Star-Bulletin Staff

Record rain deluged Oahu yesterday, causing power outages from Nanakuli to Honolulu and the Windward side, making many roads impassable.

Although a flash-flood warning was canceled at 8 p.m., forecasters warned rains will continue throughout today and that the warning could be reinstated due to saturated ground.

A flash flood watch was to remain in effect until 8 a.m. and was expected to be extended because of heavy showers and thunderstorms offshore that may move inland, said Bob Farrell, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service.

Kunia, which is normally very dry, reached 3.74 inches within a two-hour period, Farrell said - an occurrence that happens only once every 100 years. The amount could be higher, but there are no rain gauges in Kunia, Farrell said.

Radar reports show 12-1/2 inches of rain fell from Ewa Beach to Pearl City. Major traffic jams on freeways, minor vehicle accidents and scattered power outages put a damper on election day.

According to the National Weather Service, Kunia experienced once-in-a-century rainfall with 3.74 inches recorded during a two-hour period ending at 4 p.m. yesterday.

The Waianae Coast bore the brunt of the thunderstorms, which flooded roads and yards along the coast and some low-lying areas of Farrington Highway.

Heavy rains caused a mudslide along Farrington Highway in Waianae, closing the highway in both directions from 3:54 to 5:55 p.m.

Rising floodwaters almost forced the evacuation of residents along Renton Road in Ewa Beach.

Takamiya said Civil Defense officers were scattered throughout the island, monitoring traffic and flooding. Most of the problems, he said, are due to flooding on roadways.

Oahu was hit the hardest, lead forecaster Bob Farrell said. And more of the same weather, caused by a low pressure system 300 miles north of Kauai, is expected today on Oahu, he said.

Kauai saw only scattered showers and Maui had no rain, according to forecasters.

Motorists in Ewa make their way down a flooded Renton Road.
Rainfall deluged Oahu, causing island-wide power outages,
closing roads and slowing traffic.

Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin

But neighbor islands may see increasing rain in the next few days, Farrell said.

The Honolulu Fire Department's Alarm Bureau was besieged with calls of flooding in Kapolei, Waipahu, Aiea and Moanalua.

Callers reported manhole covers flying off and water shooting two feet into the air in Waipahu and Pearl City, said firefighter Greg Kekipi.

In Waipahu, a fire truck responding to flooded conditions on Kahuanani and Kahuamoku streets struck a parked motorcycle, but no one was injured.

At Hickam Air Force Base, nonessential workers were sent home yesterday at 2 p.m. because of flooding, said Col. Don Black, director of public affairs for Pacific Air Forces headquarters.

Firefighters were called twice to the Waimalu area after two boys reportedly were swept over a wall and into a culvert. They managed to make it out on their own.

Earlier in the morning, two other boys dove into a drainage canal off Lipoa Place, near Pearl Kai Shopping Center to rescue their puppy and were swept away. But the boys and puppy made it safely back.

At the Ewa home of Clint Nagamine,
Kayla and Girlie try to avoid the flood waters.

Photo by Dean Sensui, Star-Bulletin

An estimated 69,000 Hawaiian Electric customers lost power for varying periods of time. Electricity to two-thirds of the customers was restored by 1:50 p.m. Most of the remaining customers had power back by 2:27 p.m, HECO spokeswoman Jane Inouye said.

The computers, she explained, went into a "load shedding" mode as a safety precaution built into the system when generation cannot meet customer demand.

Scattered power outages also affected some of Oceanic Cable's quarter-million customers.

"As far as we can tell, the system is working perfectly," Oceanic spokesman Kit Beuret said yesterday afternoon.

In some neighborhoods, however, the loss of electrical power would also mean the loss of cable, he said.

"Most (cable) outages these days are very localized," Beuret said. "We now have a dedicated fiber to every 500 homes. So if we have an outage, it will affect fewer than 500 homes. Usually within a 500-home neighborhood, there may be one or two signal amplifiers, which are electricity dependent. So you may lose a couple of hundred (homes) if one of those amplifiers goes out."

Star-Bulletin reporters Debra Barayuga, June Watanabe, Pat Omandam and Vik Jolly contributed to this report.

Downpour, flooding
took a toll on voting

By Star-Bulletin Staff

To get to the polls yesterday, Oahu voters mucked through mud, waded through curb-breaching torrents and spun over waterlogged roads rendered nearly impassable by a historic deluge.

Many didn't make it.

Nearly 68 percent of the island's 386,546 registered voters braved nature's fury to cast their ballots.

"That is kind of low," said chief elections officer Dwayne Yoshina. "It could be the rain and the weather."

He said it also could have something to do with the National Voting Rights Act which now requires the state to keep voters on the rolls for four years even if they've moved away.

"I was expecting about a 75 percent turnout," he said.

And Yoshina admitted he didn't get outside much yesterday.

In Waipahu, election officials had to pick up and move a polling place to a multipurpose room because the gymnasium flooded. At Kalihi Uka Playground, precinct workers were forced to move voting booths to an outside hallway when everything went black. Several other precincts had to think fast and improvise when they lost power for varying periods throughout the day.

"It came down pretty heavy throughout the day and we had several slow periods because of that," reported Farrington High election official Karl Berndlmaier.

Drivers maneuver through the flood waters along
Fort Weaver Road in Ewa, which was among areas
hardest hit by flooding yesterday.

Photo by George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin

For Kapolei commuters, it was
Hell-1 freeway

By Star-Bulletin staff

For thousands of commuters yesterday afternoon, hell was the H-1 freeway.

On the airport viaduct, progress was measured in inches. A daylong downpour turned that stretch of freeway into a virtual parking lot, making all but one lane impassable near the Radford overpass for much of the afternoon.

A drive that normally takes 30 minutes stretched into 240. And for most of that time, frustrated motorists sat idly in their cars on the viaduct, cursing their luck as the rain continued falling.

"When it comes to bad traffic jams, Honolulu has LA beat by a mile," said John Stotts, a visiting Southern California resident stuck in yesterday's viaduct mess. "What a way to spend the afternoon!"

Traffic moved so slowly a reporter could leave his car, do several interviews and return to the wheel before traffic budged an inch.

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