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Slow-moving storm that knocked out power and swamped homes has passed over Hawaiʻi

Hawaii Severe Weather rain honolulu
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)

Updated 12:30 p.m. Wednesday

HONOLULU — A slow-moving storm that knocked out power, swamped dozens of homes and sent creeks and streams surging has passed over Hawaiʻi.

The unusually strong winter storm clobbered Hawaiʻi for several days, knocking out power to 42,000 people on Maui and the Big Island, according to the Hawaiian Electric Company. Outages were also 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.

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

Pearl Harbor survivors gathered under overcast skies for an 80th anniversary event. The island had received between 6 and 10 inches (15 and 25 centimeters) of rainfall since Monday, but isolated bands of rain were still possible.

The National Weather Service said the storm would bring the threat of “catastrophic flooding” as a low pressure system slowly moved from east to west and then lingered on the edge of the archipelago.

A flood watch remained in effect for Kauaʻi County until 6 a.m. Wednesday, the NWS reports.

"Low spots in roads will become dangerous and impassable due to severe runoff. Debris in streams and gulches may clog bridges and culverts resulting in dangerous flooding," the weather service said. "Additional heavy rainfall on Oʻahu could cause severe flooding impacts, as six to ten inches of rain has fallen over the entire island since Monday."

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.

Honolulu flooding 120721
Honolulu Zoo
Flooding at the Honolulu Zoo on Dec. 7, 2021.

Farrington High School on Oʻahu and Kula Elementary on Maui were closed Wednesday due to weather-related issues, the Department of Education said. The Honolulu Zoo reopened Wednesday.

On Kauaʻi, county officials urged residents and visitors to remain vigilant and prepared Tuesday, saying there has been little impact but they're not out of the woods yet.

On Maui, power outages and flooding were reported in previous days, with more than a foot (30 centimeters) 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, Maunakea.

Snow is not rare at the summit of Maunakea, which is nearly 14,000 feet (4,270 meters) 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 Hawaiʻi 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 thundershowers 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 Hawaiʻi.

On Oʻahu, shelters for those affected were open at Kalakaua District Park, Makaha Community Park, Sunset Beach Recreation Center, and Kailua District Park. On Hawaiʻi Island, there is a shelter at Keaʻau Armory. All shelters are now closed, the American Red Cross of Hawaiʻi said Wednesday afternoon.

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Sophia McCullough is HPR's digital news producer. Contact her at
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