Heavy rains flood Molokai
Flooding from nearly three inches of rain on Molokai shut down parts of Kamehameha V Highway from Kawela out to Kilohana, said police Capt. Timothy Gapero.
“Same 'ol mess we have every year, nothing new for us,” said Darrel Aia, State Highway supervisor, whose crew, along with County of Maui Public Works teams, cleared massive amounts of debris throughout the day and into the night last Thursday. Aia, who has been working highways for 26 years, said open rivers that flow across the roads during flood season make it impossible to prevent road closures.
Molokai High School, Molokai Middle School and Kualapu`u Elementary School were closed at around 1 p.m. Thursday. Kilohana Elementary School in East Molokai was reported closed by the heavy rains.
According to school officials, Kaunakakai students were stranded on their campuses when fast-flowing streams made the highway impassable.
The heavy rains also caused the state Board of Education to cancel its regular monthly meeting scheduled to be held at Molokai Middle on Thursday. The state Democratic Party also cancelled its Molokai rally that was to feature candidates Randy Iwase and Mele Carroll, as well as senators Akaka and Inouye.
Airports around the county reported periods of heavy rain with overcast or foggy conditions. Molokai and Lanai airports reported cancelled and delayed flights. Visibility was cut to less than a mile at different times of the day.
On Maui, the rough weather forced officials to cancel an air drop by a Hawaii National Guard helicopter of food and fuel to some 340 residents of the Kipahulu region who were cut off from the rest of the island after the Paihi Bridge was closed due to last month’s earthquake damage.
By Thursday afternoon on Oahu, a massive pile of muddy earth, roots, rocks and trees – three to four dozen truckloads worth – were cleared from just outside the Honolulu side of the Pali Highway tunnels that poke through the Koolau Mountains to the windward side of the island.
While no one was hurt in the landslide Wednesday, it blocked both of the town-bound lanes and part of the Kailua-bound side, snarling commuter traffic that night.
Highway officials, however, decided to keep the town-bound lanes closed Thursday because mud was continuing to flow onto the road.
The area received a total of 22 inches of rain over three days, including 8 inches within a 12 hour period, said Maureen Ballard, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
The rains, which began Monday on Kauai, are part of the start of the islands’ wet season.
“We do get rain during our wet season, of course. But of course, we don’t every year get stuff which produces landslides,” Ballard said.
Even though El Nino this year is expected to mean a drier winter for the islands, events like this week’s rains aren’t uncommon, she said.
With reporting from AP