Hawaii declares state of emergency following heavy rains, severe flooding
03/23/2021 // Divina Ramirez // Views

Torrential rain and flash floods wiped out homes, triggered landslides and caused a dam to overflow in Hawaii, prompting Gov. David Ige to declare a state of emergency on Tuesday, March 10.

Hawaii has experienced heavy rainfall since Sunday, with some areas getting one to two feet of rain within just 24 hours. The rain caused catastrophic flooding that devastated homes in the islands of Oahu and Maui. In Maui, officials were forced to issue evacuation orders after rain breached the massive Kaupakalua Dam.

The dam is one of the oldest agricultural dams on the island and holds about 68 million gallons of water. Mahi Pono, one of the dam's co-owners, said in a statement that the dam, which is located about five miles east of the Haiku turnoff on the scenic Hana Highway, experienced some overtopping but ultimately did not fail. However, the overtopping of the dam still rendered a number of roads impassable and devastated homes.

The heaviest downpours hit Maui on Monday then shifted to Oahu. However, torrential rain continued off and on across Hawaii for the rest of the week. In northern Oahu, hundreds of residents were also forced to flee their homes Tuesday because of surging floodwaters. The evacuation order was lifted on Wednesday.

Ige signed the proclamation to release state funds to help affected residents and to dispatch first responders to hardest-hit areas. The proclamation covers the counties of Hawaii, Maui, Kalawao, Kauai and Honolulu and will continue through May 8 unless terminated or superseded by a separate proclamation.


Severe flooding devastates homes, prompts evacuations

Despite the severe flooding, authorities reported no casualties. In Maui where the rains were heaviest, two had gone missing briefly after being swept away in the floods on Tuesday. However, only one was rescued.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino reported that at least half a dozen homes were devastated by the floods. Officials are inclined to believe there have been landslides as well since one bridge in the area was washed out and another was displaced. Some portions of roads had also been washed away, flooded or blocked by debris.

At a press conference on Monday, Victorino said the island hasn't seen such a flooding situation in a long time. He added that some residents told him the situation is the worst they have seen in over 20 years. Victorino urged visitors in the area to stay in their hotels as several facilities would be closed as a safety measure.

"Many outside events are canceled and many restaurants are probably closing to protect the employees as well as their guests," he said.

Victorino surveyed the flooded areas on Tuesday with officials from the State Department of Land and Natural Resources to assess the extent of the damages. "We are so fortunate that there were no reported deaths or injuries," he said in a county news release.

Meanwhile, the Maui Fire Department said on Monday that they received more than a dozen calls for help from residents who were trapped in their homes because of rising floodwaters. (Related: New flood maps reveal: 100-year floods may become yearly occurrences.)

In Honolulu, Mayor Rick Blangiardi appealed to residents on Tuesday to follow evacuation orders. He said the storm was proving to be most serious. "It is life-threatening," said Blangiardi. "If you've been asked to ... evacuate, please do so immediately."

Officials in Honolulu also reported on Tuesday that about 8,200 gallons of partially treated wastewater spilled within the grounds of a local wastewater treatment plan. Some of the water also spilled on the grounds of the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge in Oahu.

Go to Environ.news to learn more about the flooding in Hawaii.

Sources include:




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