Hurricane floods homes in Hawaii
Hurricane Lane weakened Friday as it headed toward the Hawaiian islands, but it still brought torrential rains that immersed a city in waist-deep water and forced people to flee flooding homes, while others jumped off seawalls with boogie boards into the turbulent ocean.
As many dealt with flooding and even brush fires, swimmers and surfers ignored warnings from authorities and plunged into powerful waves at Oahu’s famed Waikiki Beach, which was closed.
Emergency officials said repeatedly over loudspeakers: “Please get out of the water! It’s very dangerous!” Honolulu’s mayor pleaded with tourists that they were putting themselves in danger as the storm churned closer.
The National Weather Service downgraded the storm to a Category 1 with winds of 74 to 95 mph as it headed north toward the islands. It was expected to veer west, skirting the islands, but still threatened to bring heavy rains and strong, gusty winds statewide, meteorologist Gavin Shigesato said.
A hurricane watch for Hawaii’s most western inhabited islands, Kauai and Niihau, was downgraded to a tropical storm watch. Still, the hurricane center warned that Lane’s slow movement increases the potential for prolonged heavy rainfall that’s expected to cause major flash flooding and landslides.
The outer bands of the hurricane dumped as much as 3 feet of rain in 48 hours on the mostly rural Big Island. The main town of Hilo, population 43,000, was flooded Friday with waist-high water as landslides shut down roads.
Margaret Collins, 69, woke up Thursday night to the sound of moving water in her Hilo backyard.
“So I got up out of bed and looked out my bedroom window and saw water 3 feet high gushing past my window,” she said. “And that’s when I realized I was standing in water.”
She called a neighbor for help, who crawled through bushes to bring her out of the house, half-carrying her as she clutched a plastic bag with medication.
The gushing water knocked down a cement wall and lifted her truck out of the carport, sending it toward her neighbor’s house, she said.