Hawaii braces for rain as powerful storm lashes

Published on : Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Some parts of the Hawaii islands could see as much as 25 inches of rain through Tuesday, meteorologists said.

An intense seasonal cyclone that caused significant flash flooding and prompted a wave of alerts throughout Hawaii on Monday was expected to linger into Tuesday, with forecasters warning that the storm could also set off landslides and widespread power failures.

By late Monday night, the Oahu Department of Emergency Management had reported flooding in urban areas of Honolulu, along with several vehicle rescues, the National Weather Service in Honolulu reported.

While the storm made its way away across the islands, a flash flood warning was in effect for Oahu in Honolulu until early Tuesday local time, the Weather Service said.

Excessive runoff from heavy rainfall will cause flooding of drainage ditches and streams, streets, highways, properties, and other low lying spots,” the agency warned. “Stay away from streams, rivers, drainage ditches, and culverts, even if they are currently dry.”

At least four shelters were open overnight in Oahu, officials said.

Power outages across the state appeared to be minimal by late Monday, with about 4,000 customers affected, mostly in Maui, according to PowerOutage.Us, a website that tracks power failures.

Gov. David Ige of Hawaii signed an emergency declaration on Monday afternoon, which freed state funds to be used for losses caused by flooding and other cyclone damage.

The cyclone slamming Hawaii is a type of storm called a kona low, which typically stalls, drops large amounts of rain in one location and comes from a southerly direction, bringing moisture to areas that do not usually get much rainfall, the Weather Service said.

But given the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, it is rare for a kona low to stall directly over the Hawaiian islands, meteorologists said.

“This is an extreme weather event,” Adam Weintraub, a spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said on Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, parts of Maui had already received about 12 inches of rain, “a dangerous amount,” according to David Roth, a meteorologist with the Weather Service.

That danger is expected to heighten, officials said, as rainfall totals could reach 10 to 15 inches across the state by Tuesday, with isolated areas seeing up to 25 inches, according to the Weather Service.

“Please avoid any nonessential travel,” the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said in Twitter post. The agency also said it would begin assessing damage on Tuesday.

Oahu, the most populated island and home to Honolulu, is expected to receive heavy rainfall on Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Mr. Weintraub said.

By Monday afternoon, several major roadways were closed, including a portion of Highway 11 in the southern region of the island of Hawaii, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

All the islands were on a flood watch on Monday, several public schools canceled classes and Governor Ige warned residents on Twitter, “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.”

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