Rainstorm packs a punch, leaves damage in its wake

Upcountry sees nearly 13 inches of rain, South Maui hit by flooding

South Kihei Road is undermined and its shoulder is washed away near Kaonoulu Street and Kalepolepo Beach Park Monday morning. The section of road was closed to traffic. South Maui was hit hard by the storm, with sections of the coastline threatened by surf and flooding and neighborhoods inundated with rains and overflowing gulches as the storm saturated Upcountry. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Cameron Nelson estimated it only took about 60 seconds for the gulch along the side of his Maui Meadows home to turn into a roaring flash flood late Sunday night.

“I have a gulch on one side and a huge drop-off 20-foot waterfall,” Nelson said of the area around his property. “I went to look at it and it was drizzling. I came home and 60 seconds later I heard Niagara Falls. … Within 60 seconds it was 15 feet wide and rushing at full velocity.”

It took eight to 10 minutes for his whole yard to fill up, rising about 18 to 24 inches and flooding a lower room of his home by nearly a foot. It was another five minutes before the rock wall on his property burst, allowing the torrent of rain and runoff to rush downhill.

“It saved my home,” Nelson said. “My whole house was going to flood otherwise. There was no other option. There was way more water outside my house than inside my house, but it was a matter of time.”

Nelson and many other residents could only hunker down and hope for the best as heavy rains pelted the entire county, floodwaters undermined portions of the road, strong winds downed trees and an estimated 22,000 Maui customers lost power.

Scott Suda (foreground) and Noah Abdill clear mud from the South Kihei Road entrance of the Luana Kai Monday morning.

Rainfall was heaviest on Sunday night; over a 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. Monday, the Kula 1 rain gauge logged 12.69 inches of rain, the most countywide, followed by the Puu Alii gauge on Molokai at 7.72 inches and the Molokai 1 gauge at 7.22 inches. The Lanai 1 gauge reported 5.77 inches.

On Maui, no rain gauge registered fewer than 2 inches as nearly every region saw significant rainfall, with 6.89 inches in Ulupalakua, 5.61 inches at the Kepuni gauge in Kahikinui, 4.90 inches at the Lahainaluna gauge, 4.62 inches in Kihei, 3.35 inches at the Kahului Airport, 2.55 inches at Hana Airport and 2.12 inches in Haiku.

On Monday, Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency for the state, while Mayor Michael Victorino declared a state of emergency for Maui County.

“South Maui was especially hit hard by significant flooding while other areas are coping with fallen trees, storm debris, downed power lines and other hazards,” Victorino said.

Flooding impacted roads and homes from north Kihei to Maui Meadows, eating away portions of South Kihei Road and leaving almost no shoulder just past the Kihei-bound side of the bridge near the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Bill Carrier, facility manager for the sanctuary, said he was unable to access the site Sunday night and Monday morning because the water was too high and the road was blocked off in both directions. The sanctuary parking lot was flooded with brown water on Monday, but Carrier said “it doesn’t appear there was any damage” and that neighboring Kalepolepo Beach Park “received the worst of it.”

“Luckily we’ve had a (concrete) berm added to the front of the property, which seems to have protected us,” Carrier said.

A north Kihei resident who asked to remain anonymous said that floodwaters had washed up so close to South Kihei Road that “you’d be scared your car would go off the edge.” The resident said that Kenolio Park was completely flooded, the beach was trashed with debris and the road was closed and covered with mud near the corner of South Kihei and Uwapo roads.

“It was kind of a shock because it didn’t seem that bad and I slept through most of it,” the resident said Monday. “But this morning I went to take a walk because I couldn’t drive anywhere, and it was like, ‘whoa.’ “

While South Maui residents battled flooding, Upcountry residents endured power outages.

Leia Robis, manager of the Rodeo General Store in Makawao, said that the power went out at about 7 p.m. Sunday, so the store had to shut down.

“It was pitch black. Nobody had power,” Robis said. “I think the power came back on maybe 4:30, 5 this morning. Other than that it wasn’t too bad. We didn’t have flash flooding down the street like the last time.”

Workers taped the doors down and avoided opening any of the coolers in hopes of preserving fish, meat and other products during the outage. Robis said when they returned on Monday, “nothing melted, nothing spoiled, thank goodness.”

The store, which reopened at 7 a.m. Monday, an hour later than usual, was busy Sunday and Monday, with some customers stopping by to report that power was out in nearby Pukalani.

“Just had a few customers within the last 10 minutes come in and say Foodland just reopened, but they don’t have fresh meat, fish or poke,” Robis said late Monday afternoon.

According to Foodland spokesperson Sheryl Toda, the power went out at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, but the Pukalani store stayed open until 8 p.m. to allow customers to shop for nonchilled items.

“We used our generator to provide lighting in the store and to operate our register systems,” Toda explained. “Our store finally opened at 3 p.m. (Monday) when power was restored. Unfortunately we had to throw away most of our chilled items in our meat, seafood, deli and produce departments.”

Toda said Foodland has a load arriving today and another on Friday, “so we should be fully stocked by the end of the week.”

Even amid the outages and flood damage, community members stepped up to help each other. Nelson said that after a broken wall blocked his driveway, someone stopped by with a tractor to move all the rocks so he could get out. An elderly neighbor a few houses down from Nelson was trapped in her home after sand or mud washed into the area “and barricaded her in, basically.” Residents spent about an hour and a half clearing out the property.

“The community came together here,” Nelson said. “But there’s major, major damage. … This was the 100-year storm. I’ve been here 15 years. I’ve seen a couple 10-year storms, but I’ve never seen nothing like this.”

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.


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