HANALEI – On Tuesday morning, a Hanalei resident Kevin Horgan and his wife woke up to about four feet of water flooding the bottom floor of their house, which is located on Weke Road across from the newly rebuilt Blackpot Beach Park.
It was water from the Hanalei River, which overflowed its banks, hit a newly-built four-foot high cement wall along the rebuilt road, and went right into the Horgan’s house.
“Its frustrating. We requested the county to put in some drainage. They made the road higher too. The water floods faster now. They don’t maintain the river mouth and it gets backed up or goes into the land on the other side of the river,” Horgan said. “It would be great if the county could maintain the river mouth and cut out the hau bushes too.”
Across the island, torrential rains caused flooding and overflowed rain gauges, dropping between 8 and 12 inches in many places in the 24 hours ending Tuesday at 9 a.m.
The lowest rainfall reported was at 2.46 inches of rain at the Port Allen rain gauge.
Horgan said his house on Weke Road started flooding at about 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“My house was built 14 years ago and this is flood number six for us. The new park is great, no more driving on the beach,” Horgan said. “(But we) would love it if they maintained the river and the river mouth via dredging like they do the other rivers on the island. This would go a long way to reducing the overflow from the river that now bounces off the new dam of a road back into mine and my neighbors houses.”
Horgan says it’s too early to tell how much damage has been done. He has to take the walls down first, power wash the affected area and get a dehumidifier, which he claims is not covered by his insurance.
Kuhio Highway in the vicinity of Hanalei Bridge was closed Monday at 4 p.m. and residents have been collecting at Hanalei School, where an American Red Cross shelter was set up with cots and food. By midnight Monday, about 50 people collected at the shelter. By Monday morning, there were 150 people at the Hanalei School.
“Our community is very resilient. We are sheltering over 100 visitors, going on 24 hours, and they woke up to hot breakfast from Kalypso, lunch from the Hanalei Gourmet and Baracuda. It looks like the Tahiti Nui is working on dinner,” executive of Hanalei Initiative Joel Guy said. “The community works well with the county in managing these types of disasters. We are assessing the needs and sourcing supplies as it looks like another night of road closure. Community-led, government-supported.”
Lunch from The Gourmet included traditional St. Patrick’s Day fare like corned beef and cabbage.
American Red Cross volunteer Sparrow Fontoura said by the end of the day Tuesday, there were about 75 people sheltered at the school.
Fontoura got the message at about 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday that she was needed at the Hanalei shelter and said the first thing she did when she arrived at the school was to start brewing coffee for as many people as she could.
“We were trying to make people as comfortable as possible, answer questions and get them dry clothes — the basics,” Fontoura said.
Erin Watkins and her husband, visiting from Seattle, Washington, spent the night at at the shelter with their infant baby and were originally staying in Koloa. They got stuck on the Hanalei side of the river when the road closed.
“I knew it was raining a lot, but we weren’t worried about it because we didn’t think it would flood like this,” Watkins said. “I just wanted to make sure the baby had somewhere to sleep, not in the car.”
Watkins said she was very appreciative of the food donated by restaurants for people at the shelter.
Alex and Andrea Gorsesky are visiting from Grand Terrace, California, staying in Kapa‘a and also got stuck on the Hanalei side of the river when the water rose.
“We were staying in a hotel in Kapa‘a and actually upgraded to a better room, but couldn’t get there to enjoy it,” Alex Gorsesky said.
The mount Waialeale rain gauge recorded the highest rainfall on Kaua‘i, with 21.90 inches recorded over the 24-hour period ending at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday , the National Weather Service reported.
Aside from heavy rain, a rare weather formation was reported — a storm capable of producing a tornado, first located at 1:22 a.m. Tuesday morning about 28 miles southwest of Barking Sands, moving northwest at 30 miles per hour.
“It’s exceptionally rare for the entire state. The last time we issued a tornado warning was in 2008 on the leeward side of Kaua‘i, “ NWS meteorologist Derek Wroe.
Wroe said the tornado came on shore from the south of Hanapepe, and dissipated.
“No new reports or impact happen before dawn”, Wroe said.
Residents on the Westside were surprised by the tornado warning on early Tuesday morning.
“I was woken up by a phone call form my mom saying we’re in a tornado warning, never ever would I have imagined we’d be having one,” Kehaha resident Terence Dabis Waialeale said. “But with all the weird weather I hope everyone practice common sense and to stay home.”