Editor’s note:Heavy rain was falling on parts of the Big Island again Friday night. See the storm blog for the latest reports on road closures and shelters.
HILO, Hawaii Island – Thirteen people have been rescued, others urged to evacuate and several communities severed by rising floodwaters resulting from another night of Hurricane Lane’s virtually nonstop downpours, authorities said late Friday morning.
Rain had subsided temporarily by daybreak Friday, but not before Lane left its mark on an island that so far has suffered the bulk of the storm’s wrath.
Safety personnel rescued five people from the Reed’s Island area of Hilo, six others and a dog from nearby Piihonua, and airlifted two stranded hikers from remote Waimanu Valley, said Kelly Wooten of the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
This photo provided by Jessica Henricks shows flooding Thursday on the Wailuku River near Hilo.
Forty-four people stayed overnight Thursday in emergency shelters, Wooten said, add that so far there were no reports of wind or surf damage.
Reed’s Island, an inland area named because of its location between the current and former paths of the Wailuku River, got inundated with floodwaters overflowing the river’s banks. Police and fire personnel Thursday night issued an alert recommending Kaiulani Street residents evacuate, which required driving across a wooden bridge built over the swollen Wailuku River.
“Public safety personnel are going house to house, contacting the residents and informing them of the increasing threat,” police said in their 8:44 p.m. alert. “Those refusing to evacuate may not be able to be rescued by first responders should conditions continue to worsen.”
A Facebook video shows floodwaters, reportedly made worse by a clogged drain, undermining the foundation of three-story vacation home recently built on Reed’s Island.
Translated from Hawaiian, the Wailuku River means “river of destruction.” Hawaii’s longest waterway, according to Wikipedia, its turbulent waters and submerged lava tubes have claimed numerous lives even in non-storm conditions.
Mudslides closed Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270) in North Kohala on Thursday.
Hawaii Department of Transportation
Landslides and downed trees closed both Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270) and Kohala Mountain Road (Route 250) simultaneously, cutting off all land access to the North Kohala communities of Hawi and Kapaau, according to updates from the Hawaii Department of Transportation and Hawaii County police.
As of 7:25 a.m. Friday, crews had reopened Akoni Pule Highway to local traffic only, but less than an hour later the crucial road was again left impassible because of a landslide and downed tree at Halawa Gulch near Hawi, police said. Late in the afternoon, one lane was reopened as work to clear the landslide continued.
The narrow, curvy Kohala Mountain Road was reopened, although “some windblown debris remains on the road,” the police said in an advisory Friday afternoon.
Other key road closures Friday morning included at least four sections of Highway 19 north of Hilo along the Hamakua Coast.
Also closed were at least 19 county roads and bridges throughout the windward side of the island, according to Civil Defense. Among them was the wooden Piihonua bridge that provides the only access to a couple dozen homes in the upper area of Hilo from which rescues have already occurred.
Curious onlookers examine flood-swollen Kaluiiki Stream, which overflowed a wooden bridge and forced the closure of Akolea Road in upper Hilo on Friday.
Jason Armstrong/Civil Beat
The Daniel K. Inouye Highway, commonly known as Saddle Road, was blocked about 10 miles above Hilo by a landslide, large boulders and more than a foot of water Thursday night, police said.
By early Friday, crews had reopened the section to contraflow traffic only, according to DOT, which reported more than 2 miles of roadway shoulder had been eroded overnight.
Completed in October 2017 at a cost of more than $316 million, Saddle Road is 48 miles long and serves as the main cross-island route linking Hilo and Kona.
The entire Big Island remained under a flash flood warning Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service.
“Radar and gauges showed that rainfall has decreased recently over the East side of the Big Island, but significant flooding issues are ongoing in several areas,” the NWS said in its 8:09 a.m. update Friday. “The ground is saturated from windward Kohala to the Kau District. Any additional rain will cause rapid and significant flooding.”
By 9:30 a.m., Hilo was again being pounded by rain.
According to the NWS, the heaviest rainfall was measured 16 miles above Hilo at a point along Saddle Road, which received 10 inches of precipitation during a 12-hour period that ended at 8 a.m. Friday. Areas closer to downtown Hilo received about half that amount of rain during the same period, while virtually all leeward areas saw only trace amounts of rain.
Kailua-Kona and Keauhou were getting rain Friday morning, but there was no sign of damage to the shoreline or Kahaluu Beach Park, according to Cindi Punihaole, an experienced waterwoman in charge of educational programs offered at the park.
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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 email@example.com