Storm leaves Hawaii after ‘biblical’ rains

AP, HONOLULU

Mon, Aug 27, 2018 - Page 5

A once-powerful hurricane on Saturday twisted and drifted away from Hawaii, leaving behind heavily saturated ground on the Big Island and many residents on other islands relieved it did not wreak more havoc.

Firefighters on the Big Island rescued 39 people from floodwaters Friday through early Saturday as the island grappled with the nearly 1.2m of rain from Tropical Storm Lane, formerly Hurricane Lane, dumped on the eastern part of the island over the course of three days.

In Honolulu, where the storm deposited only a few centimeters of rain, shopkeepers removed plywood from their windows and reopened for business.

Preliminary figures from the weather service show that Lane dropped the fourth-highest amount of rain for a hurricane to hit the US since 1950.

Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Texas a year ago, topped the list.

The storm’s outer bands dumped as much as 114cm on the mostly rural Big Island, measurements showed. The main town of Hilo, population 43,000, on Friday was flooded with waist-high water.

“It was almost biblical proportions,” said Hawaiian state Senator Kai Kahele, who represents Hilo.

The ground was soggy on Saturday and it was still raining, but Hilo is accustomed to rain, he said.

The Wailuku River, which raged with runoff, has a name that means “destructive water” in Hawaiian, the senator said.

Native Hawaiians who have lived in the area for hundreds of years know how dangerous the river can be, Kahele said.

Hawaii County Civil Defense spokeswoman Kelly Wooten said teams were assessing damage, but continued to focus on recovery efforts because of the ongoing precipitation.

One of the Big Island’s volcanoes is erupting, and the rain could still cause whiteout conditions on some active lava fields when it hits the molten rock and boils off as steam.

Like the Big Island, Maui experienced flooding and landslides, while the high winds fanned brush fires that had broken out in dry areas of Maui and Oahu.

Some residents in a shelter had to flee flames, and another fire forced people from their homes.