Record rain leaves big cleanup
One Wailuku rain gauge recorded over 8 inches — a huge catch for the area
Central Maui residents continued to clean homes, businesses and a church Thursday after record-setting rainfall caused knee-deep floodwaters across the island Wednesday.
Kahului Airport’s rain gauge recorded its highest on-record rainfall total for one day with 6.40 inches, according to the National Weather Service. Gauges in the area of the airport have been recording rainfall since Jan. 1, 1905.
“It was quite a bit of rain,” hydrologist Kevin Kodama said. “The Wailuku gauge just up the hill from the airport got over 8 inches in 24 hours and that’s a lot for that area. By midday the airport had more than 10 times the rain compared to Puu Kukui, which is very unusual. Puu Kukui is one of the wettest spots in the state.”
On Thursday, Happy Valley and Wailuku residents were busy moving furniture, Christmas presents and other belongings out of their homes to dry off and sweep out water.
Sandie DeLima, who lives on Kaohu Street, said that about 85 percent of her apartment was flooded and her two dogs nearly drowned in the living room. She and her husband were at work in Wailea when the flood hit.
“All our things are gone,” DeLima said. “We had to haul whatever we had left in the rain. Everything is just soaked. We were walking in waist-high water; disgusting water. It was horrible.”
DeLima said that water from a nearby ditch overflowed and quickly filled the rented first-floor unit where she lives with her husband and two children. She said that her husband raced home to save their dogs, but his truck and a friend’s truck had to be towed after they were submerged in water.
“It was really really bad,” she said.
DeLima recently updated her unit with a new couch and other furniture, but now “nothing is salvageable because it’s stink and gross.” She said her washer and dryer were destroyed, as well as her standalone freezer, which was floating in the hallway.
“It smells like the sewer erupted,” she said.
The family has been moved to one of its landlord’s properties in Lahaina to stay for now, DeLima said. She said that the landlord has begun to cut out the drywall to fix the unit as soon as possible.
“All the Christmas presents are gone,” she said. “We’re just in disarray. . . . We know materials aren’t everything, but we work hard for whatever we have, so it’s just really disheartening.”
HI Performance Athletics, a strength and conditioning business located next door to DeLima, also flooded with nearly two feet of water, said owner Vernon Patao. He said over 2,500 pounds of rubber weights and 24 bars were damaged by the water.
“Once you submerge them in water, it breaks down all the rubber and the metal is going to break down quicker,” Patao said.
Patao, a two-time Olympic weightlifter, trains athletes for his business but also trains 30 to 40 neighborhood children for free. He said that he was in the process of getting insurance after canceling coverage recently when he moved the business from the Waiko Road area.
He said this was the second time his gym was flooded.
“We have very generous people who come to the gym to help out the youth,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that we’re going to have to look into rebuilding again.”
On Thursday, Happy Valley resident Hinano Nelson continued to clean his home that was heavily damaged by floodwaters and mud. Friends and family spent most of the day scrubbing the residence and pumping out remaining water.
“We’ve been pumping water out since 1 a.m. (Wednesday),” Nelson said at midday Thursday. “It’s hundreds of gallons of water. Too much to count.”
Marmac Ace Hardware in Kahului reopened Thursday morning after being forced to shut down from the torrential rains. The owners and about eight workers spent hours cleaning the store using vacuums, sump pumps and brooms.
“The rain was the hardest we’ve ever seen in 50 years and they cleaned it all up,” owner Maureen Marrs said. “We have amazing employees.”
Maui County Chief of Staff Herman Andaya said that Public Works crews spent most of Thursday unblocking sewage pipes and drainage systems. He said flooding was reported in East and South Maui as well as Lahaina, which suffered a brief power outage, in addition to Central Maui.
“It was a lot of rain. There’s some pretty big-sized potholes that were left,” Andaya said. “If we get another rain event we could have more of this and it’s forecasted that we’re supposed to have more rain next week. I’m not sure if it’s going to be more than what we had this week, but we want to urge the public to prepare.”
A slow-moving cold front combined with a strong upper level trough helped line up Wednesday’s downpour, which was “pretty unusual” for Maui, Kodama said. He said that the front of the weather system focused all the moisture onto the island and “stalled out for the better part of the day.”
“It was the combination of two factors coming together at the right time, or wrong time depending on your point of view,” he said.
Residents should expect rain next week, but it is unclear how heavy showers will be, Kodama said. Showers are likely Monday through Wednesday.
“We think there’s going to be some kind of event, but we just don’t know the strength or timing,” he said.
Maui Red Cross volunteers are assessing a Kahului neighborhood for flood damage and plan to meet with affected residents, officials said. Caseworkers will follow up with residents to ensure immediate needs are met and provide referrals to assist with disaster recovery efforts.
For more information, call the Red Cross at (808)739-8109 or see redcross.org/hawaii.
* Chris Sugidono can be reached at email@example.com.