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Heavy Rain, Flooding Put Hawaii on Alert

Weather: Mudslides and huge waves batter properties, prompting disaster warning by governor after more than a week of storms.

November 16, 1996|From Associated Press

HONOLULU — Islandwide mudslides, floods and monstrous waves forced Gov. Ben Cayetano to put Hawaii on disaster alert Friday as rain fell steadily and searchers used dogs to make sure no one was buried in the mud.

For more than a week, rain from normally tranquil skies has drenched the islands, frustrating residents and tourists who have seen only glimpses of the sun.

Cayetano and Civil Defense teams toured the islands Friday to assess the damage. The governor also placed the Hawaii National Guard on alert and the state Civil Defense Emergency Operation Center was opened. A hotline was established for flood victims.

Honolulu has had more rain this month than the 13.6 inches it had in all of 1995, the National Weather Service said.

Almost 15 inches of rain have fallen at Honolulu International Airport so far this month. Other parts of the island have had more than 21 inches.

Normal rainfall for the entire month of November is 3 inches, said Roger Pierce, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service. That amount fell on some parts of Oahu in just six hours Thursday.

Waves as high as 30 feet were reported on the North Shore.

"It was the biggest thing I ever faced in my life," said Chris Owens, who has been surfing there for 25 years. "We saw what appeared to be mountains on the horizon. We started paddling out. We got over the first wave, a 20-footer; then all of a sudden this gigantic mountain came out of nowhere."

The high surf eroded property at a number of beachfront homes, while inland residents' homes and crops were swamped in waters a foot deep. Most of Oahu's public golf courses were closed Friday.

On Thursday, a hunk of rain-soaked mountainside came crashing down on an apartment building's parking lot on Oahu, wrapping cars around trees and leaving them hanging off the ledge of a parking ramp.

No injuries were reported, and the search dogs found no one.

Mud and debris fell off cliffs on Diamond Head in Waikiki and onto the Pali Highway, one of the two highways linking the east and west sides of Oahu.

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