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Hawaii recoups from big storm amid lingering flood threats

UPDATED: Tue., Dec. 7, 2021

By Caleb Jones Associated Press

HONOLULU – A slow-moving storm that knocked out power, swamped dozens of homes and sent creeks and streams surging had mostly passed over Hawaii on Tuesday, though the threat of flooding lingered in some already-drenched areas.

Showers were tapering off on Oahu, where Pearl Harbor survivors gathered under overcast skies for an 80th anniversary event. The island had received between 6 and 10 inches of rainfall since Monday, but isolated bands of rain were still possible. A threat of heavy rain continued for the island of Kauai.

The unusually strong winter storm clobbered Hawaii for several days, knocking out power to 42,000 people on Maui and the Big Island, according to the Hawaiian Electric Company. Outages were reported on other islands, though it wasn’t immediately clear how many were affected.

On Tuesday, the Honolulu Fire Department reported responding to nearly 100 storm-related incidents within 24 hours, including 55 flooded homes. Ten people were also saved from flash flooding: Five boys ages 9 and 10 were pulled from a raging creek Monday; another five people were later rescued from a different stream, and one was sent to a hospital, the agency said. The department also responded to two landslides and four wind-torn roofs.

Several schools were closed on Oahu due to the weather. Widespread power outages were reported, including in downtown Honolulu, where utility crews were working to restore electricity after a substation flooded. Police were directing traffic at busy cross streets where traffic lights were out.

Four shelters had been opened on Oahu, where normally busy beaches remained mostly empty Tuesday morning.

The storm system was expected to move out of Hawaii on Wednesday, two days after Gov. David Ige issued a state of emergency for all the islands.

The Big Island and Maui were mostly clear of the heaviest rain by Tuesday morning.

On Maui, power outages and flooding were reported in previous days, with more than a foot of rain falling in some areas.

The relentless rain forced three couples from the U.S. mainland to postpone their Maui elopements, said Nicole Bonanno, owner of Bella Bloom Floral, a wedding florist and boutique in Wailea.

“The roads, everything are a mess,” she said. “There are lots of trees down.”

Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth had declared an emergency after heavy rain and winds pounded the island on Sunday. A blizzard warning was issued for the island’s highest peak, Mauna Kea.

Snow is not rare at the summit of Mauna Kea, which is nearly 14,000 feet high. However, the last time there was a blizzard warning for the summit was in 2018.

The storm, known as a “Kona low,” is a unique type of low-pressure system that can form near Hawaii during the winter after gathering huge amounts of tropical moisture from equatorial regions.

“Kona lows tend to move slowly and so they can keep heavy rain and thunder showers focused over one area for a prolonged amount of time, and they can also cause pretty strong to damaging winds,” said meteorologist Robert Ballard, the National Weather Service’s science and operation officer in Hawaii.

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