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State of emergency declared in Hawaii amid major flooding

Additional landslides, road closures, power outages possible

Major flooding in Ohau, Hawaii, in 2016. (Photo: Flickr/Anthony Quintano CC BY 2.0)

Hawaii’s governor has declared a state of emergency as a major storm has left thousands of customers without electricity and continues to produce potentially “catastrophic flooding.”

In a tweet on Monday, Gov. David Ige said he signed the emergency declaration as heavy rains from a “Kona low,” a type of seasonal cyclone in the Hawaiian Islands, were expected to “continue to cause flooding and damage” across the state.

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The decision, he said, would allow Hawaii to use funds to provide “quick and efficient relief of suffering, damage and losses caused by flooding and other effects of heavy rains.”

Ige said the emergency relief period would run until at least Friday.

According to the National Weather Service office in Honolulu, several locations were drenched with 10 to 15 inches of rain from late Saturday afternoon to late Monday afternoon.

Saturated soil, plus strong winds from embedded thunderstorms, led to toppled trees and power lines. Excessive runoff has caused at least one mudslide, on the island of Maui, as well as occasional road closures. As of early Tuesday morning, almost 5,000 customers in Hawaii had no electricity, mostly on Maui.

In a tweet posted just after 10 p.m. Monday local time (3 a.m. ET), Hawaiian Electric said crews were still working to restore electric service to “hundreds of customers” in downtown Honolulu and Chinatown. However, it said that “because of the continued heavy rains” power would likely not be restored until Tuesday morning at the earliest.

The NWS said the Kona low will continue to “bring the threat of heavy rain to Kauai County and Oahu” Tuesday, with a flash flood watch remaining posted for these areas through Tuesday afternoon.

While the weather service said the threat of significant flooding had diminished in some parts of the Hawaiian Islands, it said the possibility of “catastrophic flooding” was still a concern, with the threats and impacts of the storm focused over the western half of the state.

Those threats are potentially impassable roads due to severe runoff; debris in streams and gulches that may clog bridges and culverts, resulting in dangerous flooding; numerous landslides in areas with steep terrain; and street flooding in urban areas.

Responding to the threat of the storm, a number of schools were closed Monday across the state. Hawaii County Mayor Mitchell Roth declared a state of emergency Sunday “due to the threat of imminent disaster.”

In the midst of the storm Monday, the Honolulu Fire Department said it rescued five boys, ages 9 to 10, from a raging stream, according to an NBC report.

Speaking at a press conference, Acting Deputy Fire Chief Sheldon Hao of the Honolulu Fire Department said crews had already responded to dozens of “storm-related events,” including downed trees, arcing wires and road obstructions.

He said that his team remained vigilant, particularly after heavy rainfall in March caused damaging floods and a landslide in the Hawaiian Islands earlier this year.

Major lanes of concern

• H-1 from Honolulu to Kapolei.
• H-2 from Pearl City to Wahiawa.
• H-3 from Halawa to Marine Corps Base Hawaii.


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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.