KIHEI - Water came rushing into Jim Boulton's work studio and part-time residence early Sunday morning as nearby wetlands and drainage systems in Kihei were overwhelmed by massive amounts of rainwater rolling down the slopes of Haleakala.
"Within 15 minutes I lost everything," said the 72-year-old Nohokai Street resident and general contractor.
"It just came in so fast, you couldn't believe it. It just came rushing in," Boulton said as he stood in his work studio with cocoa-colored water up to his ankles, while clutching his blind Chinese crested dog, Pumpkin.
Jim Boulton, of Kihei, surveys flood damage to his work studio and part-time residence with his dog, Pumpkin, and his neighbor Gordon Shoults on Sunday morning. Before dawn, rainwater from Upcountry rolled down the mountain and overwhelmed drainage systems in Kihei, causing flooding of homes, roads and parking lots. “It just came in so fast, you couldn’t believe it. It just came rushing in,” he said.
The Maui News AMANDA COWAN photo
"It even went in my refrigerator," he added.
Boulton's bottom desk drawers were filled with water, two brown couches were surrounded by water and so was his bed. If anything was on the floor, it couldn't be seen. His backyard looked like a swimming pool.
Boulton said this is the fifth time his property has flooded, but he called this predawn mishap the "worst."
Still, he doesn't want to live anywhere else. He has been at his place near the Kihei Long's for 38 years and said he even filled the property with sand to make it higher.
"I can't move, I live here. I built this house. I built everything here," he said. His adjacent home in the front of the property was not flooded.
Brown water, dark mud and plant debris also filled other homes and parking lots. Portions of South Kihei Road were closed on Sunday where culverts and streams overflowed from rain elsewhere. Not a drop fell in the Kihei area.
According to the National Weather Service, over a 24-hour period ending at 2 p.m. Sunday, the most rain on Maui fell in Pukalani, which received 4.17 inches. Kula received 0.83 inch and Haiku, 0.81 inch. A slow-moving thunderstorm crossed Upcountry, lighting up the sky and bringing heavy rain in spots, while other areas got the aerial display without much rain.
Kihei residents reported a couple-hour power outage during the flooding. At one point cable television went out.
The flooding caused one of the Kihei electrical circuits to go down at about 1 a.m., causing about 3,000 customers to lose power for about one hour, said Maui Electric Co. spokeswoman Kau'i Awai-Dickson. For some of them, it might have taken somewhat longer to have power restored.
Awai-Dickson said Sunday afternoon that lightning also had caused power outages in Haiku, Omaopio and parts of Makawao.
She said there were still a "small" number of residents without power in the Olinda and Piiholo area, in areas that are not easily accessible by work crews.
Kihei residents estimated that flooding began at about 1 a.m. and started subsiding at about 4:30 a.m. The National Weather Service had a flash flood warning issued at the time of the flooding. Some residents were roused by the sound of rushing water from nearby culverts, while others were awakened in the wee hours by neighbors.
One was 71-year-old Herb Fritsch, who lives on the corner of South Kihei Road and Hoonani Street.
"I opened up my door and my feet got wet because the water rushed in; lucky it wasn't a lot," he said via cellular phone, with the sound of heavy equipment clearing the road in the background.
"Lucky I have a tile floor," he said.
He said he went outside his home a few times in the early morning and at one point there was water that went up to his knees.
Fire crews began responding to calls of flooding beginning at about 1:21 a.m. said Acting Battalion Chief Rory Maca-dangdang. He said South Kihei Road from its intersection with North Kihei Road south to Welakahao Street was closed by culverts overflowing. According to the county, road closures began at about 12:55 a.m.
As late at 5 p.m. Sunday, South Kihei Road still was closed between Wailana Place and the whale sanctuary, and between Waipuilani Road and Namauu Place. South Kihei was opened before 8 p.m., but a small portion of Kaonoulu Road remained closed because of mud and standing water.
The fire department initiated a possible evacuation response for Maalaea Surf Condominium residents as water was rising in the area, and there was concern for the first-floor units, said county spokeswoman Mahina Martin.
The American Red Cross also opened a shelter at the Kihei Community Center, but as of 5:30 a.m. no one was at the shelter and flooding was reported to be subsiding.
Martin said fire crews said the water problems were compounded by a high tide that impeded discharge of flows coming down the mountainside.
County Department of Transportation head Don Medeiros came out during the floods and was ready to drive a passenger bus should evacuations have become necessary, but eventually conditions improved, Martin said.
Macadangdang said "multiple" residences were flooded, but there were no reports of injuries. He said fire crews from Kihei and Wailea and a rescue crew from Kahului remained in the South Kihei Road area until about 6:30 a.m. to make sure everything was OK.
County Public Works crews were on the scene before 4 a.m. to operate backhoes, loaders, dump trucks and an excavator and a water tanker to clear South Kihei Road of mud and debris, according to the county. Crews also worked to clear culverts.
In the roadway fronting the Maalaea Shores and Kihei Beach Condominium, mud was reported to be 2 to 3 feet deep, the county said.
Some residents questioned if the county could have done something to prevent the flooding or to help them.
"I think it's important we did respond," Martin said Sunday afternoon. "When (residents) call we come out. We are always concerned about the conditions that affect the public and their safety," she said.
Martin said the rains that fell on the slopes of Haleakala were heavy. Gulches that are usually dry filled with water and swept accumulated debris down on low-lying areas. Trash clogged waterways.
"We are always concerned," she said, adding that the county does "not take things lightly."
Heavy rains have caused trouble off and on throughout the islands for nearly a week, including a flood Thursday evening at the Island Sands Resort condominium in Maalaea, and extensive power and telephone outages on Oahu.
The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary's Education Center along South Kihei Road was flooded Sunday, and official Ed Lyman expects the center to be closed for at least a couple of days.
Lyman said the situation wasn't "too bad" since the center's floor is mostly concrete and that "everything was pretty much off the floor. Very little damage in that regard."
But his parking lot was flooded and water also went through Kalepolepo Beach Park next to the sanctuary. There was erosion of banks where streams reach the ocean.
In Upcountry, Pulehu Road between Omaopio Road and Opalipali Place was closed from about 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday to allow crews to remove debris from the heavy rains, Martin said.
With a strong storm system moving across the state, the National Weather Service has issued a flash flood watch for Oahu, Kauai and Niihau through Tuesday afternoon.
Forecasters say as much as 2.5 inches of rain fell in parts of Oahu during a 12-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Published reports said that work crews were called in to clean up dirt and debris after heavy rain early Sunday that triggered a small landslide near Makua Cave near Farrington Highway on Oahu.
Forecasters say unstable air moving across the area is expected to bring heavy showers and isolated thunderstorms to parts of Hawaii through at least Tuesday.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.