KEALIA — While much of the country was diving into football on Sunday, Christy Wong was wading through rising waters to save the more than 170 animals at Kauai Animal Education Center.
“It was three feet of water we were walking in. The entire property was completely underwater. We had to evacuate everyone,” Wong said. “Talk about flash flooding, within an hour we were completely underwater.”
A flash flood warning was issued for Kauai on Sunday morning due to heavy rains that hammered Kauai throughout the weekend, and during the 24-hour time period ending at 7 p.m. Sunday, the Kapaa area had received 9 inches.
That downpour put KAEC’s goats, pigs, chickens, guinea pigs and rabbits in a dangerous situation.
“We knew it was going to rain, but it was crazy,” Wong said. “We moved the rabbits and then the chickens started flooding, and then the pigs. It was so fast.”
That afternoon, Wong lost 10 of her animals to the flash flood, and she said she’s thankful it wasn’t more.
“If this would have happened at night, it would have been different,” Wong said. “We’re really grateful.”
Now she’s working to house the smaller animals in community homes and gather pet food donations, since most of her animal food stockpile was destroyed in the rain, which was the heaviest rainfall event she’s seen on Kauai.
“None of the farmers around here remember it ever being this bad, even with the 40 days and nights of rain,” she said.
The 2006 downpour event broke dams on Kauai and drenched the entire state for more than a month.
In Moloaa, Permaculture Kauai’s Ray Maki recorded 8 inches of rainfall in three days.
“I think you could say, in a short period of time, it was one of the heavier rains in a few years. I hadn’t seen that intensity in a few years,” Maki said. “It was a full winter storm. It ranks up there.”
Driving through Kealia at the peak of the storm, Maki said he’d “never seen it rain like that” in the Kapaa area.
Roads flooded and Kuhio Highway was closed near Hanalei Bridge on Sunday, but the weekend’s weather didn’t set records, according to the National Weather Service.
“You were really close yesterday in Lihue,” Melissa Dye, with the National Weather Service, said on Monday.
“The main part of it has moved on and is over Oahu now.”
At the Lihue Airport, 5.25 inches of rain was recorded on Sunday, nearly matching the 1985 record of 5.31 inches, according to NWS.
Rainfall was islandwide over the weekend, though the focus of the storm was on the Kapaa and Wailua area. In the 96 hours ending on Monday at 1:45 p.m., the Wailua Ditch recorded 13.66 inches.
Anahola recorded 11.14 inches in that same time period, and heavy amounts of debris washed onto the nearshore areas at Lydgate Beach Park, which piled into mounds and trapped rainwater into ponds throughout the park.
For Wong, and the many other Kauai families whose homes and businesses were flooded over the weekend, it’s cleanup time.
“Once the river released, it’s all below flooding level now, but the land is puddles and mud,” Wong said.
It’s not just debris from their property strewn about the farm — belongings from neighbors were washed throughout the valley as well.
“We’re in recovery. You can see stuff scattered everywhere,” Wong said. “It’s a mess.”
Things will be drying out for the rest of the week, according to NWS, as humidity decreases and the tradewinds return.
By Thursday, the winds will be in full swing and are expected to carry the islands through the weekend, toward another storm system that’s set to move in on Kauai early next week.