Deluge from Hurricane Lane prompts rescues, road closures

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald People look over the Wainaku Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald People watch from the Puueo Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald People watch from the Puueo Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Carvalho Park fields are flooded Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Carvalho Park fields are flooded Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald People watch as Piihonua Falls rages Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Neighbors walk along with umbrellas on Wailuku Drive Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Police block the road to Rainbow Falls Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Carvalho Park fields are flooded Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald People watch from the Puueo Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Rainwater from Hurricane Lane rushes down Waianuenue Avenue Thursday in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Police block the entrance to Boiling Pots Thursday in Hilo.
  • courtesy photo A downed eucalyptus tree and landslide block Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270) Thursday in North Kohala.

Hurricane Lane’s rain kept emergency workers busy Thursday, as five people were rescued from a flooded Hilo home after a nearby gulch overflowed.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe said those rescued from the Reeds Island home in Hilo weren’t injured and were taken to a shelter.

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In addition, Okabe said, a county helicopter was used Thursday to rescue two campers who were trapped overnight in Waipio Valley.

The campers also were uninjured.

As of 4:45 p.m. Thursday, windward Big Island rain gauges measured some impressive 24-hour rainfall totals.

Hilo International Airport registered 12.81 inches of rain, about 10 percent of its average yearly total. Hakalau was even rainier, with 18.04 inches. Waiakea Experimental Station tallied 18.57 inches, Saddle Quarry had 15.57 inches and Kulani measured 10.46 inches.

The hurricane warning for the Big Island was downgraded to a tropical storm warning late Thursday afternoon. A flash flood warning remained in effect as of deadline, as did a high surf warning for south-facing shores of all islands and the Big Island’s west-facing shores.

While leeward areas were generally drier than the windward side, some spots experienced an uptick in rain, as well.

Keaumo had just over 9 inches of rainfall, Kapapala Ranch registered almost 5 inches and Pahala tallied just under 4 inches. Kahua Ranch, in the Kohala Mountains, had 2.47 inches. Keahole International Airport in Kailua-Kona, however, experienced just 0.13 inches of rain.

“We’re only partway through this whole storm, and so the rainfall is gong to continue. We’re concerned about that,” Talmadge Magno, county Civil Defense administrator said. “Everything is saturated and flowing on the surface now.”

Noting that some areas received 12 inches of rainfall in 12 hours, Magno said, “That’s maybe half of what’s forecasted. I think we got a lot more rain to come.”

The flooding conditions in Hilo prompted the American Red Cross to open a shelter Thursday at Waiakea High School in Hilo. The five shelters opened Wednesday in West Hawaii also remained open, despite no mandatory evacuation orders.

Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 19) was reopened with intermittent lane closures after a landslide closed it Thursday morning near Honomu.

Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270), which was closed for much of Thursday at the 24-mile marker, was reopened Thursday night. A large eucalyptus tree fell onto the main thoroughfare in and out of North Kohala in Kapaau Thursday morning, causing a mudslide and blocking both lanes.

Dash Kuhr, executive director of Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture in Kapaau, said the institute is closed but didn’t sustain property damage.

“It’s just heavy rain,” Kuhr said early Thursday afternoon, adding the area hadn’t been hit by high winds yet. “All the gulches and rivers are pretty full of water.”

Kuhr said he was isolated because of the road closure.

“We have plenty of food stocked, and generally we’re all situated,” he said.

As for the storm, Kuhr said, “It’s affecting our programs pretty negatively, but we just got to make do.”

Another area resident, who requested anonymity, said landslides are common in the area.

“People in North Kohala, they are used to this kind of thing. They prepare pretty thoroughly,” the man said.

He added that even if the road is open, the area is a bit isolated.

“We like it that way.”

Noting that debris and landslides can happen at any point, Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state Highways Division, advised motorists “if they don’t have to be on the road, don’t be.”

Sniffen also said that even if the island doesn’t experience hurricane-force winds, tropical-storm force winds of 40 mph are sufficient to topple albizia trees.

Other road closures in effect late Thursday include: Hilo Bayfront Highway; Kamehameha Avenue between Pauahi and Ponahawai streets; Pauahi Street bridge; Kukila Street in Hilo; East Kawailani Street between Awapuhi and Nohona streets in Hilo; Rainbow Drive in Hilo; Old Mamalahoa in Honomu; Akolea Wooden Bridge; Laupahoehoe Point Road; Pohaku Drive from 39th to 40th in Orchidland Estates subdivision; South Point Road from Kamaoa Road to South Point; and Kaalaiki Road in Naalehu.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Lane was a Category 3 storm about 180 miles southwest of Kailua-Kona with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph, moving to the west-northwest at 6 mph.

A slow general northward motion is expected to continue through today.

A turn toward the west is expected Saturday and Sunday, with and increase in forward speed.

On the forecast track, the center of Lane will move over, or dangerously close to portions of Maui and Oahu Friday.

“It’s to the west of the Big Island, and the Big Island is lucky that it’s stayed to the west. It’s really put Maui and Honolulu in the crosshairs,” Melissa Dye, a National Weather Service forecaster said.

All county offices remain closed today, including transfer stations, and all county parks are closed today and will be assessed for weekend use.

The county’s Hele-On Bus is running, however.

All state offices, parks and recreation areas are closed, as are courthouses, public schools and the University of Hawaii.

The Kahuku Unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also will remain closed today.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. said its customer service and engineering offices will remain closed to the public today, as well.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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