East Hawaii News

Hamakua, Hilo and Puna Pounded by Storm

December 30, 2013, 10:32 AM HST
* Updated December 30, 5:18 PM
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The New Year’s pyrotechnics came a little early on the windward side of the Big Island as thunderstorms hammered areas from Waimea to lower Puna from Sunday night into Monday morning.

Hamakua bore the brunt of the heavy rainfall, with the National Weather Service gauge at Island Dairy in Ookala registering more than eight inches of rain in the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. this morning.

Saturday was relatively dry, but Friday’s rainfall pushed the 72-hour total for Ookala to 12.58 inches.

Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said this morning that numerous areas of Route 19 along the Hamakua Coast were closed this morning because of flooding, mudslides and other debris.

While local detours were available for some of the blockages, significant mud and other debris was giving road crews major problems near the 34-mile marker, between Paauilo and Kukaiau, where the highway has been blocked since early this morning.

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Shortly before 10 a.m. today police advised motorists to avoid Route 19 in the Laupahoehoe area which they said would be closed indefinitely. At the time the highway was completely closed from mile markers 25 to 34.

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The National Weather Service had issued a flash-flood advisory for Hamakua Sunday night, which it extended to Hilo and lower sections of Puna early today.

At around 3 a.m., that advisory was upgraded to a warning which is expected to be in effect until at least noon.

A flash-flood warning indicates that flooding is imminent or occurring in streams, roads and low-lying areas.

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Rainfall totals over the 24-hour period ending this morning in other areas included 6.32 inches in Pahoa, 4.78 inches in Kamuela, 4.15 inches in Waiakea and 3.65 inches at Hilo’s airport.

Upper Puna areas of Mountain View and Glenwood saw less than an inch or rain during that period, while most areas of West Hawaii saw little rain.

Oliveira said despite the widespread thunderstorms there was relatively little damage from lightning. He said Hawaii Electric Light Co. and Puna Geothermal Venture reported occasional strikes and resulting outages.

He said some flights in and out of Hilo International Airport were experiencing delays but the airport continued to operate.

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