Anyone dreaming of a sunny winter break in Hawaii this week can forget it: Gov. Neil Abercrombie has declared a disaster on the islands of Kauai and Oahu after days of relentless rain caused flooding, mudslides, waterspouts, hail and dangerously high surf.
Although the sun made a brief appearance Wednesday, forecasters warned that more rain was expected on Friday and Saturday.
Even parts of the lush “Garden Isle” of Kauai – known for its rain-fed tropical forests and waterfalls – were inundated by downpours that began Saturday and dumped more than 35 inches of rain, about the amount that typically falls in a month. More than 15 inches fell on the island’s main city of Lihue.
Parts of Oahu also were drenched with more than 15 inches, and officials in Honolulu said the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve would be temporarily closed because of heavy rains and surface runoff. Several golf courses in the state capital also faced closures during the week.
“We’re probably looking at early Friday morning it starting up again,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Foster. An upper-level low-pressure zone, he said, was getting ready to squat just west of Kauai and bring more rain, including possible thunderstorms, on top of the deluge from earlier in the week.
“It’s clearing up at the moment, but there’s been a lot of road closures. We had, what, 12 inches in 24 hours in some places here in Kauai,” said Jay Armstrong, who works in a local T-shirt shop.
Armstrong said his girlfriend was coming home from work Monday night and was nearly swept away.
“She was crossing a big bridge … on the north end, and as she came across the bridge, she saw something, and a landslide was just starting right in front of her vehicle,” Armstrong said. “She missed getting swept away.”
The rain prompted several road closures and officials had to set up emergency shelters at schools, said Mary Daubert, a spokeswoman for Kauai County, which was hit particularly hard.
It’s “more rain than we’ve had in a long time,” Daubert said. “In my house, we had to close all the doors and windows because moisture was coming from all around. Typically, we don’t have to do that because we enjoy having the winds provide ventilation for us.”
Residents of Kauai posted pictures on their Facebook pages of entire rain-flooded valleys and people paddleboarding through strip mall parking lots.
“This occurrence of a severe, sudden, and extraordinary event has caused extensive damages, losses, and suffering of such character and magnitude to affect the health, welfare, and living conditions of a substantial number of persons,” Abercrombie said in his disaster declaration.