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Hawaii governor declares emergency after heavy flooding causes extensive damage

The state has been battered by severe weather that is expected to last until Friday.
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Hawaii’s governor on Tuesday declared an emergency after the state was battered by heavy rains and flooding described by officials as unprecedented.

“The emergency proclamation makes state general funds available that can be used quickly and efficiently to help those impacted by the severe weather, which is expected to continue until Friday,” Gov. David Ige wrote in a Twitter post.

While there have been no reports of deaths or injuries, officials said severe flash flooding has damaged or destroyed homes, closed many public roads and led to evacuation orders for fear of fast-rising waters and landslides.

According to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, firefighters responded to 20 weather-related calls from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and rescued a 27-year-old man who was found standing on the roof of his truck.

On the island of Maui, heavy rain caused the Kaupakalua Dam, which holds about 68 million gallons of water, to overflow but left no structural damage, officials said. Floodwaters, however, destroyed Peahi Bridge and heavily damaged the Kaupakalua Bridge in Haiku.

Flood advisories and watches are in effect throughout the entire state Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. The agency previously cautioned residents to expect mudslides in steep terrain.

Floodwaters stream down a street in Hauula, Hawaii, on March 9, 2021.
Floodwaters stream down a street in Hauula, Hawaii, on March 9, 2021.Adam Palmer via Reuters

People who lived near the Kaupakalua Dam and Kaupakalua Road were ordered to evacuate, Maui County officials said Tuesday. Earlier city officials expected the dam to fail, but later said there was no structural damage.

The Maui Fire Department said Tuesday rescue teams responded to more than a dozen calls from residents who were trapped by rising waters.

"This has been unprecedented flooding, and we will be making damage assessments today," Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said Tuesday. "I ask everyone to stay vigilant and be safe."

He also warned residents to avoid high waters and not cross flooded roads.

"This is a real flooding situation we have not seen in a long time," Victorino said Monday during a live address on Facebook. "Some of the residents have told me this is the worst they've seen in over 25 years."

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In 2006, a dam failure in Hawaii turned fatal when seven people were killed after the Ka Loko dam on the island of Kauai collapsed.

But East Maui residents say they haven't seen rains like Monday's downpours in years.

"I have lived here for 30 years, and I think this is the first time that I have seen so much rain," Makawao resident Lydia Toccafondi Panzik told NBC affiliate KHNL. "I've seen hurricane times, I've seen floodings, but this was really a bad one."