Floodwater runoff changes color of ocean off Hawaii coast
Aerial video captured in Haleiwa on March 9 showed roads, vehicles and houses inundated with water after intense rains across the area.
Torrential downpours have wreaked havoc across Hawaii this week, resulting in severe flooding that some officials say is the worst seen in more than two decades. The deluge caused Gov. David Ige to declare an emergency proclamation for the state on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, a swollen stream prompted evacuations from the town of Haleiwa, located north of Honolulu on Oahu’s North Shore, The Associated Press reported. The evacuation order was lifted later Tuesday. This came a day after the dangerous flash flooding threatened to destroy homes and breach the Kaupakalua Dam on the island of Maui. Floodwaters also inundated roadways as some areas received up to nearly half a month's worth of rain in a single day.
Hawaii News Now reported that at least one person was swept away by floodwaters in the Oahu community of Pearl City on Tuesday. A 27-year-old man was rescued near Waikele after he had been swept away from his truck, according to Hawaii New Now.
A surge of moisture that had pushed its way northward across part of the island chain over the weekend began to intensify at the start of the week, dumping inches of rainfall -- and in some places more than a foot -- over the islands. Nearly two feet of rain has fallen in total so far this week in Wahiawa on the island of Oahu. On Mount Waialeale, located on the island of KauaÊ»i, more than 34 inches have been measured over the past five days.
Flood watches remained in effect for the majority of the island chain Wednesday morning, but many flash flood warnings had been lifted.
In Haiku, an area on the island of Maui, 13.2 inches of rain fell between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday, according to the National Weather Service, sparking the threat of flash flooding.
As muddy floodwaters washed off the shores of Haiku, the ocean waters near the coast became transformed into a sharp divide between a murky blue and dark brown.
The rising floodwaters spurred state officials to order the evacuation of residents living downstream of the dam. They reported that heavy rains had led to the dam cresting. Paia Community Center, Hana High School and Eddie Tam Memorial Center were opened as evacuation shelters.
The Maui Fire Department reported receiving more than a dozen calls from residents trapped in their homes by rising floodwaters on Monday as heavy rainfall overwhelmed the Hawaiian island of Maui, threatening to breach the Kaupakalua Dam.
Officials of the County of Maui issued a statement on Monday noting that while the Kaupakalua Dam was thought to have been breached by floodwaters, county officials later determined there was no structural damage after a closer inspection.
"(Water) has been coming over the top of the dam itself, but there has been no structural damage..." Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said, according to Reuters. "So the breaching that they thought was happening was because water was coming over. And some of them estimated that it had breached -- but right now, to be perfectly honest, no breach."
Shan Tsutsui, the chief operating officer of Mahi Pono, a co-owner of the dam, confirmed that water flowed over the top of the dam's reservoir, but the dam itself did not fail, according to The Associated Press.
Crews in Maui continued to monitor the integrity of the dam on Tuesday morning.
Flood evacuees, however, were still advised not to return to the area until officials deemed it safe to do so.
In 48 hours ending Tuesday evening, local time, Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, received 8.19 inches of rainfall. From the start of March to date, Hilo has recorded 13.84 inches of rainfall, about 103% of normal precipitation, 13.43, for the month.
"Runoff from the heavy rains over the mountains has led to flash flooding in many places," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said. "In Maui County, a section of the Hana Highway was closed because of the heavy rains."
Maui County officials later announced the highway was reopened, but Kaupakalua Road was closed, and others nearby may be shut down as needed.
After surveying the flooding in Haiku on Monday, Victorino reported that Kaupakalua Road was impassible in some areas and about a half dozen homes were heavily damaged or destroyed. There was also evidence of landslides.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a real flooding situation we have not seen in a long time," Victorino said in a live address on Facebook. "In fact, some of the residents have told me that this is the worst they've seen in over 25 years."
He urged residents to stay off the roads and away from streams, rivers, culverts and drainage ditches, even if they are dry, and for people to stay away from the Haiku area for the safety of evacuees and emergency personnel.
"Visitors and residents should understand this is life-threatening flooding," Victorino said.
Downpours will continue to keep flooding concerns high through the middle of the week, before the storm responsible for triggering the deluge slowly drifts northward. Still, localized downpours can continue each day through the remainder of the week as the storm remains close by.
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