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Hawaii gets break after days of rain

Rains that have lashed Hawaiian islands for days began to move on Thursday, leaving behind pools of water and piles of debris for residents and government workers to contend with.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Rains that have lashed the islands for days began to move on Thursday, leaving behind pools of water and piles of debris for residents and government workers to contend with.

The rough weather forced officials to cancel an air drop Thursday by a Hawaii National Guard helicopter of food and fuel to some 340 residents of the Kipahulu region on Maui who were cut off from the rest of the island after the Paihi Bridge was closed due to last month's earthquake damage.

The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings extending into Thursday evening for both Maui and Molokai.

By Thursday afternoon on Oahu, a massive pile of muddy earth, roots, rocks and trees — three to four dozen truckloads worth — were cleared from just outside the Honolulu side of the Pali Highway tunnels that poke through the Koolau Mountains to the windward side of the island.

While no one was hurt in the landslide Wednesday, it blocked both of the town-bound lanes and part of the Kailua-bound side, snarling commuter traffic that night.

Highway officials, however, decided to keep the town-bound lanes closed Thursday because mud was continuing to flow onto the road.

Rainfall near the tunnels had been particularly intense in recent days.

The area received a total of 22 inches of rain over three days, including 8 inches within a 12 hour period, said Maureen Ballard, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

The rains, which began Monday on Kauai, are part of the start of the islands' wet season.

"We do get rain during our wet season, of course. But of course, we don't every year get stuff which produces landslides," Ballard said.

Even though El Nino this year is expected to mean a drier winter for the islands, events like this week's rains aren't uncommon, she said.

The Pali Highway's landslide appears to be the worst of the problems brought on by the storms. But periodic road closures were also seen elsewhere in the islands.

Residents and visitors on Kauai became stranded Wednesday when the Hanalei River flooded over Kuhio Highway.

While other streams rose to near flood levels, no serious flooding was reported and civil defense authorities reported few problems.

The Board of Education also canceled its public meeting Thursday on Molokai, where a day earlier classes were suspended at Kilohana Elementary School because flooded roads made the school inaccessible. Several Molokai schools also were closed Thursday, but no other schools were reported closed across the islands, and some field trips went ahead as scheduled.

The Hawaii State Golf Association, however, announced that it had postponed this weekend's Hawaii State Senior Amateur Championship golf tournament because of rain and wet course conditions.