Heavy rains cause flooding
'It is awful'
HAPPY VALLEY — Brown floodwater soaked blue Christmas stockings and flowed underneath what had been a festive tree.
Ruined were a gray couch, coffee table, toy presents and the family home, just five days before Christmas.
This was the scene at the Nelson family home in Happy Valley on Wednesday while unrelenting rain dumped more than 5 inches in Central Maui in a 24-hour period.
“This is two years in a row my kids lost their Christmas presents,” said Hinano Nelson, referring to a flood that struck last year. “They deserve better.”
Next door at the Living Way Church Maui, church members have seen flooding before, but Pastor Greg DelaCruz said that Wednesday’s inundation is the worst he’s seen, especially in the church basement where drums and equipment are stored.
Constant rains drenched Maui on Wednesday, flooding homes and businesses, turning roads into raging rivers, snarling traffic and closing highways. Power outages left some in the dark.
At 3:47 p.m. Wednesday, the National Weather Service posted a flash-flood warning for Maui that expired at 6:45 p.m. Rainfall rates were occurring at 2 inches per hour at the time.
A cool, dry weather pattern should push out the wet weather today through Friday.
In a 24-hour period ending at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday, rain gauges reported 7.46 inches in Wailuku, 6.12 inches in Haiku, 6.65 inches at West Wailuaiki above Keanae and 5.95 inches at Kahului.
Flooding closed Kahekili Highway in the area of Milepost 7 after a culvert was plugged and water was flowing over the road.
Hana Highway, in the area of Kaupakalua Road and Twin Falls, was shut down by a landslide Wednesday morning. The county reported the road open around 1:15 p.m.
Other road closures included Puunene Avenue between Kamehameha and Wakea avenues, Hana Highway at the Dairy Road intersection and Aleo Place, according to the county. Flooding also was reported in Central Maui on Holua Drive, Pala Circle, Lalo and Hukilike streets and Kamehameha and Lono avenues.
Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, water neared the bottom of mailboxes in the 300 block of Holua Drive in Kahului.
Earlier in the day, Akira Yoshida, a 50-year resident of Holua Drive said floodwaters that pooled in the street in front of his home were “pretty high.” He estimated that the deepest part was around 3 feet.
The 83-year-old pointed to a blue county water pump at one end of the street. It has remained in the neighborhood because of chronic flooding and because it took county crews too long to get the pump from their baseyard to Holua Drive.
Most motorists seeing the high water on Holua Drive stopped and turned around. One exception was a driver of a small white sport utility vehicle who braved the waters and had to drive partially onto a yard to escape the deepest portion of the floodwaters in the middle of the street.
At Marmac Ace Hardware in the Kahului industrial area, water from Lalo Street flowed into the back door of the hardware store, prompting owners Bill and Maureen Marrs to close the business.
“We wanted to get our employees safely home,” Maureen Marrs said.
She added that when large trucks went down the street, they sent a “whole wave of water into the store.”
The couple couldn’t even get out of their car when they got to work Wednesday morning. Water was as high as 6 to 8 inches on the Lalo Street side. Maureen Marrs said it is due to the Central Maui low waterline.
“This is probably the very, very, worst we have seen in all the years,” she said.
She said that workers would usually have to pump water to keep it from flooding the store, but “no pump would have helped this at all. It is awful.”
The Marmac Ace Hardware store in Maui Lani also closed Wednesday when power went out, she said.
Maui Electric Co. customers in the Wailuku and Waikapu areas lost electricity around 10:20 a.m. It affected about 3,130 customers. By noon, the power was back on.
A tree branch brought down power lines on West Waiko Road, said MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker.
Also around 10:20 a.m., 150 customers on and around the University of Hawaii Maui College campus were affected by a power outage. That came after a lightning arrester was triggered, Decker said.
She explained that the devices are installed throughout the electrical system to protect it and other electric equipment from potential damaging effects of lightning.
Customers had their power restored around 11 a.m.
No classes were canceled, said college spokeswoman Kit Zulueta, but an aquaculture talk that had been scheduled for Wednesday night was canceled.
The Maui Interscholastic League postponed all of its sporting events Wednesday.
The weather also forced the county to close the Waiehu Municipal Golf Course after at least 5 inches of rain flooded the greens.
Also closed Wednesday was the Central Maui Landfill, where officials reported that flooding damaged roads, and Kanaha Beach Park. All county recreational park facilities, including gyms, pools and fields, were closed but community centers remained open.
The Maui Bus suspended service for all stops along Dairy Road and Kamehameha Avenue.
A wastewater overflow was reported at 11 a.m. and stopped by 12:40 p.m., the county’s Department of Environmental Management reported. It occurred along Lower Main Street in Wailuku. The wastewater system was overwhelmed by heavy rains, and sewer manholes were being opened by the public to eliminate street flooding, the county said.
The county was unable to immediately quantify the wastewater spill because most of the overflow was storm runoff. The wastewater flowed out of a sewer manhole, into a drainage system and out to the ocean.
The spill site will be disinfected, bacteriological testing will be conducted and warning signs will be posted once the heavy rains subside. The state Department of Heath was notified.
Back in Happy Valley, the rain just took minutes to flood the Nelson home. Living Way Church members scurried about trying to help Nelson, who is the son-in-law of DelaCruz.
Nelson passed floating toys as he waded through brown, knee-high water in his living room. Nelson said that the family had just celebrated Christmas and unwrapped presents with the children’s grandmother last week.
The adjacent dormitory also was flooded with knee-deep water. Resident Ivan Bailey spread his arms in exasperation and said, “This is my home. This is where I live.”
He expressed frustration that family bedding, clothing and footwear were soaked and muddy. There was also the pressure of not knowing if more flooding was yet to come.
Residents think that the recently blessed Mokuhau affordable subdivision located just uphill exacerbated the flooding.
Susie Thieman, executive director of Lokahi Pacific, said that the nonprofit housing developer has done everything legally.
“Our contractors have gone above and beyond. . . . We are studying the situation at this point,” Thieman said.
“This is the second time we had a storm like this. We followed all proper practices and procedures. . . . Rain goes where it goes.”
Underpastor George Ho’o-pai used his phone to shoot video and report live from the flooded basement of Living Way Church.
“We’re going to need your help,” he said while videoing overturned freezers full of ruined food, as well as furniture, supplies and toys sitting in brown water.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff Writer Chris Sugidono contributed to this report.