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Storm sweeps across Hawaiʻi, brings threat of ‘catastrophic’ floods

Kekaulike Avenue on Maui between mile marker 8 and Alae Road was closed Monday, the state Department of Transportation said. (Dec. 6, 2021)
Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation
Kekaulike Avenue on Maui between mile marker 8 and Alae Road was closed Monday, the state Department of Transportation said. (Dec. 6, 2021)

Updated at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.

HONOLULU — A strong storm packing high winds and extremely heavy rain flooded roads and knocked out power across Hawaiʻi, with officials warning Monday of potentially worse conditions ahead.

The National Weather Service said the storm brings the threat of “catastrophic flooding” as a low pressure system slowly moves from east to west and lingers on the edge of the archipelago.

“Now is the time to make sure you have an emergency plan in place and supplies ready should you need to move away from rising water,” said Gov. David Ige, who issued a state of emergency for all of the state's islands Monday night.

All islands still face the threat of flash flooding, lightning strikes, landslides and strong winds over the next two days, according to the NWS. Oʻahu and Kauaʻi could see the brunt of the storm Monday and Tuesday.

But for Maui and the Big Island, which have already been soaked, “it’s not going to take a lot of additional rain to really lead to big problems,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist Robert Ballard said.

On Oʻahu, most of the beaches in Waikiki were empty Monday as only a few people walked with umbrellas during passing heavy showers. Roadways were flooding in the area and cars crept through downtown as water gushed out of manhole covers.

Oʻahu remains under a Flash Flood Warning with a Brown Water Advisory issued for all coastal waters.

People scramble to get out of the heavy rain on Waikiki Beach, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)
Marco Garcia/AP
FR132414 AP
People scramble to get out of the heavy rain on Waikiki Beach, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

On Maui, power outages and flooding have already been reported, with more than a foot (30 centimeters) of rain falling in some areas.

Maui resident Jimmy Gomes was waiting for the lights to come back at his home on Monday after losing power at 6 p.m. Sunday. His rain gauge measured 7 inches (17.78 centimeters): “I haven’t seen this kind of rain in a long time,” he said.

“Last night the wind was howling,” he said. “But this morning, it came in really foggy and it rained, then it stopped.”

As of 5 p.m. Monday, Hawaiian Electric crews were working to restore service to about 5,600 customers in Upcountry Maui and pockets of Kū‘au, Ha‘ikū and Lahaina. Those in the Upper Pi‘iholo and Olinda area may have an extended overnight outage, HECO said. The Haleakalā Crater summit area remains without power.

Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth declared a state of emergency Sunday for potentially heavy rainfall and strong winds.

Some areas south of Hilo were hit hard with extremely heavy rain over the weekend, weather officials said.

Hawaiian Electric - Hawaii Island

HECO said crews were working Monday afternoon to restore power to some 7,000 Big Island residents from Kamaoa to Kealia, Orchid Isle to Volcano Village, as well as numerous scattered outages in lower Puna.

"Customers in Orchid Isle, Royal Hawaiian Estates, and Wright Road in Volcano are asked to prepare for an extended outage due to numerous problem areas caused by winds and vegetation," HECO said.

There was also a blizzard warning issued for the high peaks on the Big Island this weekend. The weather service said there were reports of up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of snow below the summit of Maunakea and officials were working to get to the summit to get more measurements.

There were also strong winds, with gusts up to 80 mph (129 kph) recorded on Maunakea's peak.

The Department of Education said Oʻahu's Solomon Elementary and Pū‘ōhala Elementary were closed Monday. Hawaiʻi Island's Mountain View Elementary was also closed.

As announced Sunday night, all DOE schools in Maui County were closed Monday. Hana, Lānaʻi, Makawao, Molokaʻi and Wailuku libraries were closed.

On Oʻahu, shelters for those affected are open at Kalakaua District Park, Makaha Community Park, Sunset Beach Recreation Center, and Kailua District Park. On Maui, there is a shelter at Kihei Community Center. On Hawaiʻi Island, there are shelters at Naʻalehu Community Center and Keaʻau Armory.

The Honolulu Zoo and all six city golf courses remained closed Monday, with possible closures on Tuesday, the city said.

“We urge all residents and businesses to be prepared and to exercise an abundance of caution during this time," said Hiro Toiya, director of the Honolulu Department of Emergency Management. "Be prepared, pay attention to your surroundings, and stay tuned to local news and official sources."

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

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Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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