Worst of the drenching should be past, for now

In one 24-hour period ending at 2 p.m. yesterday, Mt. Wai’ale’ale was drenched by nearly 12 times as much rain as fell there all of last year.

National Weather Service gauges recorded 18.21 inches of rain over that 24-hour period, while less than two inches of rain fell on Wai’ale’ale all of last year.

The interior showers caused flooding across the island, with Kuhio Highway leading in and out of Hanalei near the Hanalei River closed from midnight Tuesday morning and all day Tuesday.

It had not opened as of press time last night, causing the closure of Hanalei School and most of the businesses in Hanalei town, whose owners and operators depend on workers coming in from Kilauea, Princeville, and other areas above the flooded-out highway.

Hanalei had over eight inches of rain during that same 24-hour period, and Wailua and Hanapepe both received over four inches of rain during the period.

Though National Weather Service forecasters predicted another two to three inches of rain to fall on Kaua’i for the 24-hour period from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. today, forecaster Maureen Ballard said most of that rain was expected before daybreak today.

“It is getting better,” she said, as upper-level, low-pressure systems at both ends of the populated island chain were expected to weaken, giving way to more “zonal flow” of weather, or that moving east to west.

A gradual return to tradewind weather is expected for the rest of the week, with windward showers forecast through the end of the work week, and a chance of more widespread showers again late Saturday, she said.

Matt Rosener, a hydrologist with the Hanalei Watershed Hui, was stuck on the Hanalei side of the bridge, so had to reschedule meetings in Lihu’e yesterday, he said.

The issue of the long closure of the bridge is more an issue for people living on the Princeville side of the river and working in Hanalei, than for those living in Hanalei and areas west and working at places on the Princeville side of the bridge, he said.

“Most people accept it as a fact of life,” that, once or twice a year, and sometimes more often, the Hanalei River overflows its banks, and the road in and out of Hanalei is closed, Rosener said.

Because there’s nothing they really can do about it, those stuck on the Hanalei side of the bridge essentially get a day off work, and many of them hang out at the Hanalei Bay beach parks, he said.

The quickness with which the river rose late Monday night into Tuesday morning surprised even him.

He normally tells people that, when a gauge six miles upstream from the river mouth reads seven feet, people have between 30 and 60 minutes to get across the bridge before police close it.

It rose quickly from seven feet to 10 feet Monday night, and at top flow was moving around 15,000 cubic feet of water per second downstream.

On Hanalei Bay, first-time Kaua’i visitor Leroy Atencio, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was attempting to meet arriving relatives at Lihu’e Airport yesterday, only to be turned back by a Kaua’i Police Department officer just outside Hanalei.

Yesterday morning, the policeman told him the road would be closed for five to eight to 10 hours.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this,” said Atencio, a retired military and U.S. Department of Defense employee who thinks county officials should deputize some citizens to provide relief for the sole officer on the Hanalei side of the bridge in situations like yesterday’s.

He offered to bring coffee and food to the patrolman, but he politely refused, Atencio said.

“We’re kind of stranded out here,” he said. Luckily, they aren’t scheduled to leave Kaua’i until today.

“We’ve enjoyed our visit,” but there has been lots of wet weather, he said. “We’ve seen the sun a few times,” he said, adding that his stranded experience would not prevent him from coming back to Kaua’i on a future vacation.

The torrents caused closure yesterday of the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, and Bob Dieli, supervisory out-door recreation planner for the refuge, was stuck on the Hanalei side of the bridge, so couldn’t get to work.

He advises those interested in visiting the refuge today to call in advance, 828-1413, before journeying up to the lighthouse area.

Water was running down the main entrance road. Water was flowing over, while mud was blocking the path out to the lighthouse, Dieli said.

Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day except for federal holidays.

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