Deluge from Hurricane Lane prompts rescues, road closures on east side

  • A downed eucalyptus tree and landslide block Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270) Thursday in North Kohala. (Courtesy photo)
  • Neighbors walk along with umbrellas Wailuku Drive Thursday in Hilo.
  • People watch from as Piihonua Falls rages Thursday in Hilo.
  • Carvahlo Park fields are flooded Thursday in Hilo.
  • Carvahlo Park fields are flooded Thursday in Hilo. (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

  • People watch from the Puueo Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo.
  • People watch from the Puueo Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo.
  • People look over the Wainaku Street bridge as the Wailuku River rages below them Thursday in Hilo. (Photo by HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

HILO — Hurricane Lane’s rain kept emergency workers busy Thursday, as five people were rescued from a flooded Hilo home after a nearby gulch overflowed.

County Managing Director Wil Okabe said those rescued from the Reeds Island home in Hilo weren’t injured and were taken to a shelter.


In addition, Okabe said, a county helicopter was used Thursday to rescue two campers who were trapped overnight in Waipio Valley.

The campers also were uninjured.

As of 4:45 p.m. Thursday, windward Big Island rain gauges measured some impressive 24-hour rainfall totals.

Hilo International Airport registered 12.81 inches of rain, about 10 percent of its average yearly total. Hakalau was even rainier, with 18.04 inches. Waiakea Experimental Station tallied 18.57 inches, Saddle Quarry had 15.57 inches and Kulani measured 10.46 inches.

The hurricane warning for the Big Island was downgraded to a tropical storm warning late Thursday afternoon. A flash flood warning remained in effect as of deadline, as did a high surf warning for south-facing shores of all islands and the Big Island’s west-facing shores.

While leeward areas were generally drier than the windward side, some spots experienced an uptick in rain, as well.

Keaumo had just over 9 inches of rainfall, Kapapala Ranch registered almost 5 inches and Pahala tallied just under 4 inches. Kahua Ranch, in the Kohala Mountains, had 2.47 inches. Keahole International Airport in Kailua-Kona, however, experienced just 0.13 inches of rain.

“We’re only partway through this whole storm, and so the rainfall is gong to continue. We’re concerned about that,” Talmadge Magno, county Civil Defense administrator said. “Everything is saturated and flowing on the surface now.”

Noting that some areas received 12 inches of rainfall in 12 hours, Magno said, “That’s maybe half of what’s forecasted. I think we got a lot more rain to come.”

The flooding conditions in Hilo prompted the American Red Cross to open a shelter Thursday at Waiakea High School in Hilo. The five shelters opened Wednesday in West Hawaii also remained open, despite no mandatory evacuation orders.

Hawaii Belt Road (Highway 19) was reopened with intermittent lane closures after a landslide closed it Thursday morning near Honomu.

Akoni Pule Highway (Route 270), which was closed for much of Thursday at the 24-mile marker, was reopened Thursday night. A large eucalyptus tree fell onto the main thoroughfare in and out of North Kohala in Kapaau Thursday morning, causing a mudslide and blocking both lanes.

Around 8 p.m. Thursday, the Hawaii Police Department warned drivers to avoid Saddle Road in the area of the 10.5 mile marker above Hilo due to a landslide and large rocks on the road, but noted cleanup crews were en route.

Dash Kuhr, executive director of Hawaii Institute of Pacific Agriculture in Kapaau, said the institute is closed but didn’t sustain property damage.

“It’s just heavy rain,” Kuhr said early Thursday afternoon, adding the area hadn’t been hit by high winds yet. “All the gulches and rivers are pretty full of water.”

Kuhr said he was isolated because of the road closure.

Noting that debris and landslides can happen at any point, Ed Sniffen, deputy director of the state Highways Division, advised motorists “if they don’t have to be on the road, don’t be.”

Sniffen also said that even if the island doesn’t experience hurricane-force winds, tropical-storm force winds of 40 mph are sufficient to topple albizia trees.

Other road closures in effect late Thursday include: Hilo Bayfront Highway; Kamehameha Avenue between Pauahi and Ponahawai streets; Pauahi Street bridge; Kukila Street in Hilo; East Kawailani Street between Awapuhi and Nohona streets in Hilo; Rainbow Drive in Hilo; Old Mamalahoa in Honomu; Akolea Wooden Bridge; Laupahoehoe Point Road; Pohaku Drive from 39th to 40th in Orchidland Estates subdivision; South Point Road from Kamaoa Road to South Point; and Kaalaiki Road in Naalehu.

All county offices remain closed today, including transfer stations, and all county parks are closed today and will be assessed for weekend use.

The county’s Hele-On Bus is running, however.

All state offices, parks and recreation areas are closed, as are courthouses, public schools and the University of Hawaii.

The Kahuku Unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also will remain closed today.

Hawaii Electric Light Co. said its customer service and engineering offices will remain closed to the public today, as well.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


Email John Burnett at

Email Tom Callis at

  1. guest August 24, 2018 9:12 am

    Camping in Waipio when I hurricane watch/warning has been in effect for over a week? I hope they are being billed for the helicopter rescue. It takes a special kind of stupid!

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