HILO, Hawaii Island – The outer bands of Hurricane Lane drenched windward regions Thursday, flooding key roads and churning up strong waves, but not inflicting wind damage as of early afternoon.
Police issued an alert advising motorists to stay off all roads due to “hazardous flooding and runoff.”
Landslides reduced two sections of Highway 19 north of Hilo to a single lane, police reported. Akoni Pule Highway, Route 270, in North Kohala also was severed by landslides and runoff, according to the state Department of Transportation.
Several coastal roads were closed in Hilo, while down south Kaalaiki Road above Naalehu was shut down due to flooding, according to police.
As of 1 p.m., there were no reports of wind damage, said Kelly Wooten of the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency. By 6:30 p.m., Kona was still reported to be calm.
The entire island remained under a flash flood warning. The heaviest rain having occurred in the South Hilo and Puna districts, which saw rates of 1 to 2 inches an hour, according to the National Weather Service, which predicted more heavy rain on the way.
NWS rain gauges collected more than 19 inches in the upper Hilo area of Waiakea during the 24-hour period ending at noon and nearly 15 inches during the same period at Hilo International Airport, located at the typically drier sea-level elevation. Those amounts were consistent with forecasters’ early predictions.
Rainfall levels dropped off to 3.5 inches in Kamuela to the north, 4 inches in Pahala to the south and just 0.1 inches at the Kona International Airport, according to the NWS rainfall totals.
The leeward Kona Coast was experiencing only mild rain.
“Having some nice weather today in Kona. We are blessed right now,” Cindi Punihaole said in an email, adding the surf was not exceptionally strong.
“Weather-wise, it’s just a lot of rain,” Claudine Kuahiwanui said while speaking shortly before noon from her home in the rural Kau community of Ocean View.
In Hilo, a brief respite brought lighter skies and prompted several people to journey to the bayfront area where the four-lane Kamehameha Avenue and adjacent ball fields were under several feet of water. That situation is not that uncommon, however, as the Alenaio Stream flood canal is designed to channel water away from downtown stores so it follows a natural path through a large, open green space left largely undeveloped since the 1960 tsunami.
Police manned nearby barricades in an effort to prevent motorists from testing the capabilities of their lifted trucks or even unmodified passenger cars. Street lights at one intersection were out.
Traffic was light, and several stores were closed, but not boarded up or otherwise protected from possible storm damage. Sandbags could be seen at only a couple of businesses.
Thoughts on this or any other story? Write a Letter to the Editor. Send to email@example.com and put Letter in the subject line. 200 words max. You need to use your name and city and include a contact phone for verification purposes. And you can still comment on stories on our Facebook page.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.
Jason Armstrong has reported extensively for both of Hawaii Island’s daily newspapers. He was a public information officer/grant writer for the Hawaii County Department of Parks and Recreation from 2012 to 2016 and has lived in Hilo since 1987. Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org