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Unprecedented rainfall, landslides force water rescues and strand entire towns in Kauai

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
April 18, 2018, 11:08:07 PM EDT

Torrential rains triggered severe flooding and landslides across the Hawaiian island of Kauai from Saturday into Sunday.

Numerous water rescues were initiated due to the flooding. The U.S. Coast Guard said it assisted local authorities to rescue hikers in the vicinity of Hanalei Bay on Sunday.

“The North Shore of Kauai experienced flash flooding with waters rising between 5 and 8 feet above average due to the severe thunderstorms and heavy rains, trapping many residents inside their homes and on rooftops,” the Coast Guard said.

Waters rose between 5 and 8 feet above average along the North Shore. Crews from the Hawaii Fire Department and Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services evacuated residents to higher ground via jet skis, but they were unable to perform rescues in the towns of Hanalei, Wainiha and Haina, according to the Coast Guard.

coast guard hawaii

The U.S. Coast Guard responded to flooding in the vicinity of Hanalei Bay, Kauai. (Photo/U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Verdura/Released)

A 24-hour rainfall total of 19.54 inches was reported in the town of Wainiha at 4 p.m. HST Sunday, breaking the previous 24-hour record of 16.70 inches from Jan 6. 1969.

In Hanalei, a 24-hour total of 28.15 inches was reported at 2 a.m. HST Sunday before the gauge stopped working at the reporting site.

“While the current event 24-hour total was slightly less than the record, it is highly likely that this record was broken by heavy rainfall after the gauge stopped reporting,” the NWS said.

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The National Weather Service reported that several roads were washed out from Hanalei to Haena and several communities west of the town of Princeville were cut off completely from the rest of the island.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for the county of Kauai citing the unprecedented rainfall and a series of landslides on the Kuhio Highway.

The Associated Press reported that about 40 people were stranded at a Red Cross shelter on the island.

Kauai County spokeswoman Sarah Lane told the AP that county officials had to call in off-duty firefighters, police officers and lifeguards on Saturday night to rescue about a half-dozen people.

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