Tracie Saiki-Laa looked out the window of Alvin Matsushima's flooded Waianae home yesterday, above. Matsushima said the structure was built below road level, which allows water runoff from the valley to flood his home.


A storm’s wrath socks Oahu
with flooding, landslides, power
failures and airport delays

Heavy rains and thunderstorms pounded Oahu yesterday, causing landslides, flooded roads, 16 power failures, diverted flights and three-hour delays at Honolulu Airport.

chart A lightning bolt struck a Hawaiian Airlines passenger jet on its nose, causing the instrument panel to malfunction, according to Big Island police officials. Pilots were forced to divert the Portland, Ore.-to-Honolulu flight and make an emergency landing at Kona Airport in Keahole.

Police said Flight 26, with 270 passengers on board, landed safely and there were no injuries. State Transportation Department officials said the plane would be checked for damage.

National Weather Service meteorologists said Oahu and Kauai has seen the worst of the storm system that started hitting the two islands on Thursday. The storm front was moving down Maui County and toward the Big Island last night.

"Everything is shifting east very slowly as far as strong winds and heavy rains," said lead forecaster Tim Craig. Oahu and Kauai can still expect isolated showers and high surf on north and west shores, forecasters said.

Yesterday's storm, which brought winds as high as 52 mph to Oahu, lasted longer and caused more trouble than Thursday's drenching.

By late last night, Honolulu Fire Department crews had responded to 25 flooded homes, 10 blown roofs, eight fallen trees and eight auto accidents.

The most spectacular accident occurred at evening rush hour when a school bus driver lost control on the H-1 freeway near the H-2 merge. The bus, which had no children on board, came to a stop atop the median separating the east- and west-bound lanes. The driver suffered minor injuries.

People with umbrellas crowded a bus stop at the corner of Lewers Street and Kuhio Avenue in Waikiki yesterday.

At Honolulu Airport, there were 15- to 30-minute flight backlogs yesterday afternoon as the thunderstorms and high winds swept over the islands.

chart "It was so souped in we couldn't see the airport tower," said Scott Ishikawa, Department of Transportation spokesman.

Later in the evening, Aloha Airlines reported that some flights were as much as three hours behind schedule.

"We intend to keep flying until everyone gets where they're going," said Aloha spokesman Stu Glauberman.

Because of poor visibility, nine flights to Honolulu Airport had to be diverted to Kahului Airport, state officials said.

On the ground, the list of calls seemed endless to Honolulu emergency crews.

One of the more hectic calls came from Kalihi Valley, where water pressurebuilt up and blew out a storm drain, sending water, rocks and other debris cascading down Ahuahu Place and Kalihi Street and into a dozen homes.

"I heard a really loud noise," said 14-year-old John Velasco. "I thought it was coming from the sky."

The gush of water covered the Velascos' living room with pebbles and buried their driveway in half a foot of mud.

Nearby, Victor Bajarin said his family's fence was ripped from the ground. "This is just unbelievable," he said.

Fire Capt. Kenison Tejada said the mess started when a storm drain at 1920 Ahuahu Place started bubbling and then shot out a 2-foot geyser of water. As the water rushed from the drain, it pushed four cars and a boat down the street about 30 feet and carried debris into homes at a cul-de-sac at the end of Kalihi Street.

"A huge wave of water came out of the ground," Tejada said. "It's pretty hectic down here."

A landslide on Ahuahu Place in Kalihi Valley wreaked havoc in the neighborhood last night. Edward Dayoan removed rocks from his driveway in a cul-de-sac on Kalihi Street where water and debris rushed through, smashing his wife's Toyota against the garage and filling his garage and back yard with debris.

On the Windward side, heavy rains and lightning also triggered sewage spills in Kailua, Waimanalo and Aliamanu. About 57,000 gallons of raw sewage mixed with rainwater spewed from two manholes in Kailua Thursday night.

City workers spotted the waste water spilling from two manholes at 394 Wanaao Road at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The spill stopped about 1:40 a.m. yesterday.

The rain overloaded injection wells Thursday at Waimanalo Wastewater Treatment Plant, causing 2,085 gallons of fully treated waste water to overflow the facility grounds. About 300 gallons entered a nearby ravine but did not spill into any streams or ocean.

Lightning also damaged the emergency power transfer switch at the Aliamanu Waste-water Pump Station, causing an estimated 24,000 gallons of untreated waste water to overflow onto the Navy-Marine Golf Course grounds from 4:10 to 6:25 p.m. Thursday.

The city notified the state Department of Health of the spills and posted signs along Kaelepulu Stream, Kailua Beach Park and along the ravine next to the Waimanalo Wastewater Treatment Plant. City officials warn that people in areas of the sewer overflow should avoid coming in contact with puddles or ponding water.

Flooded roads were found throughout Oahu, crippling traffic in some areas. Flooding was reported at the H-1 freeway's Vineyard offramp, in Kunia and at Castle Junction, Fort Weaver Road, Kapaa Quarry Road, Kamehameha Highway from Waikane Valley to Waiahole, Mapunapuna Street from Kilihau and Awaawaloa streets and Hakimo Road in Nanakuli.

Other roads were closed due to landslides or rockslides. They included Kailua Road by Hamakua Drive and Kalihi Street near Ahuahu Place.

This area behind Frank Hewitt's house in Kaneohe showed where his retaining wall collapsed yesterday afternoon. Firefighters arrived to helped shore up what remained of the wall.

Hawaiian Electric Co. officials said there were an estimated 16 power outages on Oahu yesterday from midnight to 6:30 p.m. The outages lasted anywhere from 15 minutes to five hours and affected more than 12,000 customers.

By 9:30 p.m. about 100 customers in Windward and Leeward Oahu still were without power.

While there were no major injuries reported from yesterday's storms, there were two people slightly injured in lightning strikes on Thursday.

A Pearl Harbor civilian security guard was released from Kapiolani Hospital at Pali Momi yesterday where he spent the night for observation after he was struck by lightning.

The Navy said at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, during the height of the rain storm, lightning hit a crane at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and apparently traveled along a fence until it hit the guard, who was at his post in a shack.

"The guard felt pain in his legs," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, Navy spokesman, "and he was taken by ambulance to the hospital in stable condition."

A Kaneohe Marine was also hit by lightning, taken to Castle Medical Center, treated and released.

Yesterday's rainfall totals for Oahu included 7.9 inches in Ahuimanu and 6.7 inches in Waihee and Waianae valleys. On Kauai, Mount Waialeale recorded 9.6 inches, and Kokee was hit with 8.6 inches of rainfall.

The National Weather Service still had a flash flood watch for Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Big Island last night. A flash flood warning was in effect for Maui until 11:30 last night.

A high-surf warning is also in effect for all north and west shores of all Hawaiian islands with wave heights between 20 to 25 feet expected today.

A pedestrian picked up a wayward umbrella on Richards Street by Davies Pacific Center yesterday.


Star-Bulletin reporters Mary Vorsino, Gregg Kakesako, Leila Fujimori and Diana Leone contributed to this report.


Retailers brace for rains
just two months after
past flooding

Mapunapuna business owners -- many of whom are still recovering from heavy rains two months ago -- barricaded their stores with sandbags yesterday and worried that predicted weekend rain would flood their businesses again.

"Certainly I'm concerned," said Bob Freeman, owner of Mr. Sandman Inc. on Ahua Street. "We're just almost cleaned up from the December mess. I would seriously entertain (the idea of) just closing the doors if it happens again."

Dozens of Mapunapuna businesses suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage when a heavy December rainstorm caused Moanalua Stream to back up and overflow.

City spokesman Carol Costa said yesterday that crews cleaned debris from the waterway shortly after the December flood and completed work on the stream several weeks ago.

But Robert Mitchell, an advertising director at Mr. Sandman, said he is not convinced the city's cleanup job will stop water from gushing over the stream's banks. The business lost more than $200,000 in the December flood.

"We don't know where the water is going to stop," Mitchell said. "We're concerned there's still maybe a flow problem."

By sunset yesterday, roads in Mapunapuna were under several feet of water, and ponded rainwater was creeping toward a number of store fronts.

Police closed Mapunapuna Street about 5 p.m. between Kilihau and Awaawaloa streets because of high water on the road.

While some cars turned around before attempting to drive on Ahua Street in Mapunapuna yesterday, this car tried to plow on through but stalled in the high water. Passenger Ryan Lafrance, left, Brian Rios, who works nearby, and driver Cory Dement, who is mostly hidden, pushed the car out of the water.

At Ron's Auto Parts & Performance, manager Ian Yoshizawa and his staff were getting everything off the floor yesterday afternoon in case the store flooded overnight.

His employees were also "just going through the stuff from the last flood," he said.

The business suffered more than $175,000 in damage after the flood, including the loss of the store's main computer system.

At nearby Medallion Carpets, general manager Mike Takamoto said yesterday afternoon that he had been checking the stream's level hourly. The business sustained about $100,000 in damage during the December flood.

Nina Patchratong, owner of Nick's Cafe on Ahua Street, packed sandbags at the entrances of her eatery yesterday and moved paper goods from the floor.

"I'm coming back tomorrow morning and ... hope for the best," she said, adding that her shop lost more than $15,000 worth of inventory in December.

Styles Java, manager at Fix-All Equipment, lost about $80,000 in equipment during the recent flooding.

Java was trying his hardest yesterday to get all the cars in his shop fixed and back to their owners before the worst of the storm was under way.

"I have no choice," he said, pointing to an arrow drawn on his wall about two feet from the ground which marks where the water level was during December's flood.

A tow-truck driver tried to cross the high water that collected on Mapunapuna Street yesterday, but stalled. He had to wait for another tow truck to take him out.


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