Hurricane Lane pummels Hawaii before weakening to tropical storm

Torrential rain that pounded much of Hawaii early Thursday following a category one hurricane lashed the Big Island and other areas, but officials said water levels were rising slowly.

After the storm mostly weakened, residents cleared trash from gutters and foothills of rain-soaked mountains, where you could see tree trunks and limbs sticking above the rising water.

Toni Schwartz, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said that rain had stopped in the Big Island town of Hilo, and the waters there were rising at a “very slow rate”. Water was “pouring off the slope and into our roads” and some were closed, Schwartz said.

“We expect it to be flooded” by midday, she said.

The rains come after Tropical Storm Lane delivered 10-12in of rain to most of the Big Island on Tuesday, and more was expected over the coming days.

Damage was primarily minor, but two roads washed out on the east and west sides of Hilo, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation. The agency says there were about 50 fallen trees and about 18 dozen streets flooded.

Authorities in Keahole on the east side of the Big Island said they had not had any reports of missing people in the area.

More than 430,000 customers lost power in Hawaii, but power had been restored to most of them by early Thursday.

Lane was once a category 5 hurricane but weakened overnight to a minimal tropical storm.

Hilo resident Joseph Kay, 64, said he and his wife woke early on Thursday to a deluge. He cleared the rain gutters to catch rain, because the torrents were overpowering their mop-and-sweep machine.

“A lot of it is just sheer disbelief that this happened at this time of year. It’s always summer in Hawaii,” he said.

In the hours before dawn Thursday, water was pouring down streams and roads at a rate of several inches a minute, said Bob Sullivan, who lives in Pahoa, about an hour east of Hilo.

In Hilo, the storm knocked over several palm trees at Pohaiuana Motel, though the tenant who operated the business escaped with only cuts and scrapes, general manager Kelly Loxton said. The building had no water damage, however.

“You don’t realize how heavy rain can be until it hits you in the heart,” Loxton said.

Restaurants in Hilo were dark, and people sipped coffee inside their cars, frightened by the thunder and lightning nearby. Cars were bumper-to-bumper going up Hilo’s Hualalai road on Thursday morning.

One visitor, David Delorenzo, 53, of Coquitlam, British Columbia, ventured into a card shop to purchase a palm print for his son to hang on a tree when he’s older.

Delorenzo said the intense rain and loud thunder startled him and other tourists staying at the Kahunapu Resort in Hilo. He said several guests ran outside to watch the rain.

“We were nervous. We weren’t knowing what the heck was going on,” he said.

Traffic police closed two lanes on Hualalai highway because of flooding. Drivers were urged to take alternate routes.

Residents have been taking precautions for hurricane Lane. Some stores and grocery stores stocked up on nonperishable food, bottled water and items for the grill.

In the Puna area, residents built sandbag flood walls to help prevent a repeat of flooding in September 2017.

The warning of Lane came almost exactly a year after Hurricane Lane struck Hawaii with 130mph winds, damaging homes and toppling trees onto roads and rail tracks. More than a dozen homes were destroyed and dozens more damaged.

Leave a Comment