Heavy Rains Ease, Rescue Efforts Improve After Hawaii Storm

Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Verdura/U.S. Coast Guard via AP

JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER, Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — Heavy rains on Kauai let up on Monday, which helped emergency workers better rescue people stranded by flooding on the Hawaiian island.

Forty people, mostly tourists, were stuck since Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter in an elementary school in the north shore town of Hanalei. Plans to airlift them out of the school, which was surrounded by water, were abandoned because severe weather grounded helicopters, said Coralie Matayoshi, CEO of American Red Cross of Hawaii.

On Sunday night, another 21 people made their way to the shelter on personal watercraft and boats, she said. The shelter earlier had run out of food and water, but received adequate provisions Sunday, she said.

Hanalei Bridge was open only to emergency vehicles Monday, so one busload of people from the shelter was moved to another shelter, said Kauai County spokeswoman Sarah Blane. Efforts to move others out of the shelter were temporarily hampered by a landslide on the highway, she said.

There were no reports of major injuries. At least two houses on the north shore completely washed off their foundations, Blane said. The houses were vacant, she said. Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho and Hawaii Gov. Davide Ige assessed damage and rescue needs by helicopter on Monday, she said.

"The Hawaii National Guard was deployed yesterday, and I am committed to identifying and mobilizing additional state assets needed to keep the community safe," Ige said in a statement. "Now that the weather appears to have cleared, our top priority is to get to people who need medical attention and relief supplies."

Blane did not have a number of rescues that took place since Saturday. "It's definitely the worst storm in recent memory," Blane said.

Some residents said it was worse than Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

The National Weather Service recorded 28.1 inches (71.3 centimeters) of rainfall in Hanalei between 2 a.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. The record for a 24-hour period in Hanalei was set in 2012 at 28.54 inches (72.49 centimeters). "It's highly likely that the record was broken by heavy rainfall after the gauge stopped recording," said meteorologist Chevy Chevalier. The weather service is trying to figure out why the gauge stopped recording, he said.

Meredith Zietz, who was still trapped in her Hanalei home Monday, posted video of a skittish bison as it dashed through her waterlogged yard.

"It was amazing. It looked scared though," she said. She said she believed it was from a buffalo farm near the Hanalei River.

Nearby in Haena, James Hennessy maneuvered his flooded, murky street on a standup paddleboard to check on neighbors.

"We really can't go anywhere," he said, adding that he's was grateful to have electricity, even though there was no water or internet service.

Jeff Culverhouse, manager and partner of a Hanalei strip mall, was wishing for a hot shower as he pumped water out of elevators Monday. Every shop in the mall was under 2 inches (5.08 centimeters) of water and thick mud, he said, though the Big Save Market was open.

"The place is a freaking mess, to say the least," he said.

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Alina Hartounian contributed to this report from Phoenix.

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