Heavy rains flood roads, loosen rocks, landslides
Forecasters: Wet weather should ease beginning today
KAHULUI — Intersections became lakes, traffic lights glitched and flooded roads were covered in rocks and debris as Maui County was drenched by a “heavy rain event” Monday that county officials expect to last into today.
Frontal moisture stalling over Maui County on Monday produced the heavy rains, the National Weather Service forecast office on Oahu said. Both Maui and Molokai were under flash flood warnings throughout the day.
Mayor Michael Victorino urged visitors and residents late Monday to stay home at least for the night, as evening reports of landslides and fallen trees from the day’s rains began to roll in.
At Mile Marker 35 on Honoapiilani Highway in Honokohau, a landslide that included three to five “washing machine-sized boulders” blocked both lanes Monday evening, Maui police said. On Hana Highway near the Waianu fruit stand, a landslide cut off one lane of traffic while a fallen tree along Hana Highway near the Keanae Arboretum blocked both lanes, according to Maui County spokesman Brian Perry on Monday evening.
Conditions could improve today, as the Maui County Emergency Management Agency said that rain was expected to be heaviest Monday. The National Weather Service on Monday evening forecast an 80 percent chance of rain today at Kahului Airport, down from 100 percent Monday.
Police and fire officials did not immediately report any major incidents due to flooding as of Monday afternoon.
Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro said that crews reported to a nuisance flooding call along Holua Drive near Lihikai School. He confirmed that the incident only involved water building in the area and that no residents needed help.
Hawaiian Electric reported several outages, including some on Molokai that affected 450 customers. The outages began around 11:05 a.m. Monday, with the majority of customers online by 4:15 p.m., said Shayna Decker, communications manager for Hawaiian Electric on Maui.
Three remaining customers will have power restored after the weather subsides and a large tree can safely be removed from lines along Kalae Highway, Decker said.
On the Valley Isle, crews responded to two “small, pocket outages” Monday morning that affected around 100 customers in Haiku and 45 customers in Kahului.
Haiku customers were brought back online around 6 a.m. after bamboo was cleared from power lines in the area.
Customers in Kahului who experienced an outage around 8:15 a.m. had power back on by 10 a.m., Decker said. The cause of the Kahului outage was being assessed Monday afternoon.
Because of the rains, Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley was closed around 4 p.m. Monday, or three hours earlier than scheduled due to heavy rain and flooding, according to the county Department of Parks and Recreation. The park is expected to open at 7 a.m. today.
Baldwin and Hookipa beach parks on the north shore, which were closed from Saturday to Monday due to expected high surf and flooding, will be reassessed this morning by parks department personnel.
The county is asking people not to enter closed park areas or heavy surf, Perry said.
On Molokai, the Puu Alii rain gauge reported 13.6 inches over a 24-hour period ending at 7 p.m. Monday — the most of any location in the county. Lanai saw far less rainfall; one gauge picked up 0.67 of an inch.
On Maui, the wettest area was Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains, which reported 8.36 inches of rain over a 24-hour period ending at 7 p.m. Monday, followed by the West Wailuaiki rain gauge in East Maui, which recorded 8.07 inches of rain over the same period.
Other areas that saw high rainfall included Pukalani with 5.69 inches, Wailuku with 5.18 inches and Hana Airport with 5.14 inches. Kahakuloa, Waikapu Country Club and Maalaea Bay all saw more than 3 inches of rain, and all but two gauges on Maui recorded at least 1 inch of rain.
Some residents took advantage of the stormy conditions, including a group of people on bodyboards who were seen sliding down slick greens at Pukalani Country Club.
Heavy rains also swamped typically flooded areas such as the Wakea and Puunene avenue intersection at Christ the King Church, which was several inches deep with water Monday afternoon, causing vehicles to pause prior to driving through.
At the nearby Wakea and Kamehameha avenues intersection, water built up on one portion of the intersection, making left-hand turns onto Kamehameha from Wakea difficult.
Water also flooded the Dairy Road and Hana Highway intersection, according to the state Department of Transportation, which advised residents to avoid the area.
Traffic lights in Kahului also went out at several intersections Monday.
DOT crews were sent out to fix traffic signals and clear debris off of roadways, including Honoapiilani Highway, Hana Highway and Keanu Street in Wailuku.
Crews also headed out to respond to reports of falling rocks in the afternoon and evening, including the landslide in Honokohau and a rockfall on Honoapiilani Highway at Mile Marker 10.5 near Papalaua Wayside Park, according to DOT’s Facebook page.
Flooding also closed various roads and intersections for a portion of Monday, police said. Makawao Avenue between Kee Road and Kailiili Road was closed but later opened, and some streets in Kihei were shut down Monday morning due to flooding, including Kaonoulu Street between South Kihei Road and Alulike Street, and a portion of South Kihei Road from North Kihei Road to Uwapo Road.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.