Al Paterson of Princeville was driving a couple friends to the Lihu’e Airport yesterday morning shortly before 5:30 when he saw a bus stopped near what he thought was a puddle. “It was dark, so we kept driving down the highway,” said Paterson. “All of a sudden there was a huge amount of water flowing down the highway around us.”
The three adults in the car heard a loud roar and looked out the wind-shield to see a huge wave. “It picked us up and we started moving quite quickly,” Paterson said.
The three climbed out of the Ford Explorer after it died as the water swirled around them filling the cab. One climbed on to the roof while the other two attempted to gain footholds.
A low-lying tree limb appeared out of the darkness and the three were able to stop the movement of the truck before it, and they, were sucked into the maw of the flash flood. “And as fast as it came up, it was gone,” said Paterson.
The flood left the bewildered adults stranded among a debris field with mud up to the wheelwells and trees and branches everywhere.
“We thought we were going to have to arrange to have it towed, but I turned the key and it sputtered mud and water for a few minutes and we were able to drive it home.”
At about the same time that Paterson and his passengers were struggling to stay alive, nearby resident John Brady was lying in bed at home. “There was an eerie, loud, deep rumbling sound,” said Brady. “It was like a locomotive, and the ground was rumbling real deeply and then there was the heavy stench of earth.”
He awoke to the sound of trees snapping like match sticks and transformers exploding as the flash flood downed utility poles. “The sound was what I remember and I knew that something serious had gone wrong,” Brady said.
Brady later helped guide firemen down into the area where the flash flood had passed. “I saw a lot of babies’ toys, pieces of houses, roofs in trees,” he said. “The houses that were down there are just gone. There’s not even a trace, they are just gone.”
“It destroyed everything in its path,” Brady said.
Firemen were using dogs to search for survivors in the debris, Brady said, while helicopters and planes flew over-head. “They were looking for as many as nine people,” Brady said.
The Bradys know the owner of the property from where homes were swept away.
“That man’s children and grandchildren were in one of the homes when the flash flood hit,” said Kim Brady, John’s wife. “His whole family was in those houses,” Kim Brady said. “The whole thing is really, really devastating. There is not even a frame-work left on those houses, there are only foundations.”
- Adam Harju, editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 227) and firstname.lastname@example.org.