WAILUA — Friday, the Wailua River rose rapidly due to flash-flood conditions.
The Kaua‘i Police Department advised homeowners in the area to be mindful of the river and be prepared for potential evacuation. Officials asked the public to avoid being on the roads and, if possible, to stay in place.
Flooding from the Wailua River affected several businesses Friday evening, including the Ho‘omana Thrift Shop. Officials monitored the Wailua River and Kuhio Highway closed Friday in the vicinity of Hanalei Bridge as flash flooding caused waters to rise.
“A little higher and a little longer,” said Phil Wood of Nathan Wood General Contractor, who paused from cleaning the shop and offices near the bank of the Wailua River. “The damage could’ve been a lot greater.”
KPD said the flooding happened quickly, and once the collected sand and debris under the Kuhio Highway bridges over the river were flushed by the raging floodwaters, water subsided almost as quickly as it rose.
“The level was pretty high,” said an officer monitoring the situation at the flooded Wailua Marina. “We had to evacuate the thrift store and some of the residents living along Kuamo‘o Road because the water was level with the road. Once the mouth opened up, the water dropped quickly.”
Kamika Smith of Smith’s Motor Boat Service and Smith’s Tropical Paradise was obviously a victim of the flooding that forced fallen trees and other vegetative debris into the kayak-launching area. There were no damages to the parked river barges, where flood waters were waist-deep at several points.
“The water came over the berm at the Smith’s Lu‘au and Tropical Paradise,” Smith said. “Someone told me to move my car. When I got outside, the water was coming at me. I was able to move the car and told one of the ladies she had to move her car, too.”
Nathan Wood General Contractor was one of the businesses impacted by floodwater, and had associates’ cars parked on the high end of the kayak-adventure parking lot off Kuamo‘o Road.
“It happened pretty quickly,” said Karen Wood, mother of Nathan Wood. “At one point, the water was waist-deep. We moved a lot of the supplies to the Puhi lot.”
Fig Mitchell, vice principal at King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School, had his pickup laden with household goods from one of the families evacuated from the river-bank area. He stopped to check on the well-being of the employees using vacuums and squeegees to clear their warehouse.
“We gotta do the good-neighbor thing,” Mitchell said. “These people all had to evacuate, so we’re just helping.”
Phil Wood emerged from the building.
“At least I got a doughnut,” he said. “Travis — he’s the next generation Wood — is the hero. He even got boxes of Girl Scout cookies.”
The National Weather Service said that at 5:17 p.m. Friday, radar indicated just a few showers moving over Kaua‘i from the east, but water levels in streams and rivers remained dangerously high, and Kuhio Highway in the vicinity of the Hanalei Bridge remained closed. On Saturday, traffic was still reduced to one lane, according to county officials.
The trough that created the unsettled weather over the past few days was expected to weaken through the weekend and lessen the chances of heavy showers. However, trade winds will continue to deliver passing clouds and showers, especially to windward areas, into this week.
Nearly nine inches of rain fell on Mt. Wai‘ale‘ale during the 24-hour period ending at 5 p.m. Friday, 5.5 inches at Kilohana Crater, and 6.36 inches at the North Wailua Ditch.