Heavy rains ‘ran like rivers,’ wash cottage off foundation

Heavy rain Upcountry on Thursday washed away a cottage, stranded cars in rising water, prompted evacuations of flood-prone areas, flooded businesses and shut down multiple roads, public safety and county officials reported Thursday evening.

Police and fire officials said that there were no reported serious injuries in the incidents, which began as rain fell heavily Upcountry, especially in Olinda, Makawao, Pukalani and out toward Nahiku on Thursday afternoon and into early evening.

At Kaluanui, fire officials said a cottage was ripped off its foundation and swept away in a flood early Thursday evening. Another house in Kaluanui was surrounded by water.

Fire personnel were able to assist two people from the house surrounded by water, while three others decided to remain in the home, said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga on Thursday night.

Other residents in the Kaluanui area were voluntarily asked to evacuate their homes, Mainaga added. Emergency shelters were being set up Thursday night.

In addition to homes, fire personnel reported three vehicles stuck in water at Maliko Gulch. The passengers all got out safely, Mainaga said.

Parts of Maui were under either a flood advisory or a flash-flood warning all day Thursday with heavy rain pounding the windward slopes of Haleakala in the afternoon. The National Weather Service extended a flash-flood warning to midnight Thursday, citing radar showing heavy showers along the windward slopes.

According to the National Weather Service, 3.19 inches of rain fell in Pukalani in a three-hour period ending at 5 p.m. Thursday. Kahului Airport received 1.06 inches of rain during the same period.

Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains, one of the wettest spots in the world, received the most rainfall over a 24-hour period ending 5 p.m. Thursday with 4.64 inches.

At 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Maui Civil Defense was scheduled to open an emergency shelter at the Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani. County spokesman Rod Antone said that the shelter was set up for those displaced by the heavy rains and flooding as well as residents who could not go back to their homes because of various road closures.

As of 8 p.m. Thursday, Kee Road in Makawao between Makawao and Baldwin avenues and Brewer Road in Makawao were closed. Police reopened a portion of Makawao Avenue in the town that had been closed earlier in the day, although Makawao Avenue between Piiholo and Kokomo roads were still closed Thursday evening.

Kaupakalua Road in Haiku was closed between West Kuiaha and Kauhikoa roads.

The heavy rain did cause problems for at least two Makawao businesses.

The Designing Wahine Emporium along Baldwin Avenue was “ankle deep” in water, said saleswoman Eve Kaiakala on Thursday afternoon.

“It happened really fast,” she said. “We didn’t think the water would go under the building.”

Kaiakala and fellow saleswoman Annie Kinoshita said that the water seeped in from the bottom of the walls and “ran like rivers” due to the slight slope of the store.

Most of the merchandise did not get wet, said Kaiakala, but the floor, tables and dressers that hold the merchandise were soaked. The saleswoman immediately called a flood specialist, who pumped the water out of the store.

“They’re gonna bring fans in tonight to dry (the furniture) all up. . . . It’s crazy,” said Kinoshita.

At Rodeo General Store, Manager Wesley Echo Hawk said that rainwater was coming through the roof and through the light fixtures. With around a half-dozen buckets throughout the store, he pointed to the office ceiling, which was noticeably warped from the rain.

Store workers also had to use brooms to push water out of the store as rainwater and runoff flowed just outside the store’s doors, he said.

He has been working at the store for three years and said he’s “never seen it this bad.”

At nearby Polli’s Mexican Restaurant, manager and hostess Jules Bundschuh said that workers earlier in the afternoon used a Shop Vac to suck up rainwater that was coming toward the back of the restaurant from nearby Olinda Road.

When Makawao Avenue in front of the restaurant was closed for a portion of Thursday, Bundschuh said there was a back up of cars heading to Haiku. But by 7 p.m. traffic was moving and the restaurant was about three-fourths full, which included those who could not get back to their homes because roads were closed, she said.

In Pukalani, the Kuykendall family’s home was spared from water but not their property.

The family again saw water from a nearby ditch flood their property near Pukalani Elementary School, damaging their yard, said Evelyn Kuykendall. The flooding has occurred several times in the past. Kuykendall’s son, Travis, recently had a wall built to hold back as much water as possible.

The Kuykendalls said that they are frustrated because their property still floods, and that they still get the run around from government officials over who is responsible for maintaining the ditch.

The family said that the state says it owns it.

They said overflowing water from the ditch between their property and the school has caused thousands of dollars in damage.

“At 83, I don’t want this to happen again,” Evelyn Kuykendall said.

Olinda resident Jasmine Bustamente, who spent the day commuting to and from her home for work, said there were so many mud puddles she had to dodge just to get to her car.

“The rain was just insane,” she said Thursday night after her excursions in the Upcountry area.

As she drove from Olinda to Paia early Thursday evening she said she saw a stream running through Rainbow Park.

“I never seen that before,” she said.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu said breezy and gusty trade winds with periods of enhanced heavy showers are to be expected through at least tonight. Although showers also will fall in leeward sections, rainfall will be focused along windward slopes.

A drier pattern of windward and mauka showers will develop during the weekend.

The weather service also extended its high-surf advisory for east-facing shores of Molokai and Maui until 6 p.m. Sunday. Surf is expected to be in the 6-to-8-foot range, with occasional higher sets.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com and Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.