Tuesday 20 November, 2018

Olivia is now a tropical depression, more rain for Hawaii

A home on Kahekili Highway near the Waihee River Bridge, was evacuated after a flash flood breached the property on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018, in Maui, Hawaii. Maui County says several homes on Maui are being evacuated because of floodwaters from Tropical Storm Olivia. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

A home on Kahekili Highway near the Waihee River Bridge, was evacuated after a flash flood breached the property on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 12, 2018, in Maui, Hawaii. Maui County says several homes on Maui are being evacuated because of floodwaters from Tropical Storm Olivia. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP)

Heavy rain and winds from a tropical storm downed trees, knocked out power and prompted evacuations of several homes on Hawaii's Maui island but spared the state widespread damage before it headed to sea and away from the state.

Tropical Storm Olivia was downgraded Thursday to a tropical depression after it crossed the state Wednesday, making landfall on Maui and Lanai islands.

Weather forecasters warned heavy downpours would continue Thursday, producing produce additional rainfall of 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 centimetres) and isolated amounts of 6-8 inches (15 to 20 centimetres) on higher terrain.

That could cause could cause life-threatening flash floods because the ground is already saturated with water, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said in a statement.

But Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said he was hopeful the effects of the storm would be limited.

"It's been an ordeal but we're coming through this fairly well," Arakawa said at a news conference. "I'm not seeing any really large areas of damage, no homes destroyed or flooded to any kind of extreme measures as we did in previous storms."

Maui County said several homes in Lahaina had to be evacuated because of rising waters in a nearby river. Another home in Waihee Valley was evacuated.

Kahulu Peltier-Yaw said she saw gushing water from an overflowing river blocking at least one part of eastern Molokai's only highway. She said it's common for the highway to become impassable when there's heavy rain.

A flash flood warning was issued for Molokai island and Maui. A wind gust of 51 mph (82 kph) was recorded at the airport on the island of Lanai.

A rain gauge recorded 9 inches (22 centimetres) of rain at West Wailua Iki on Maui.

The storm, which was a hurricane earlier in the week, slowly lost power as it neared the state.

Forecasters cancelled a tropical storm warning for Oahu and Maui late Wednesday after the storm moved far enough south to put the islands out of range for stronger winds.

Matthew Foster, a meteorologist with the Pacific Hurricane Center, said moisture from Olivia will linger through Friday even though the wind threat has died. This, combined with an upper-level system, may trigger heavy rain and possibly thunderstorms on Kauai, Oahu and possibly Molokai, he said.

Honolulu's H-1 freeway flooded under similar circumstances two years ago after Tropical Storm Darby passed the state and dissipated, he noted.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell both said they were keeping an eye on the leftover moisture.

"We're all being cautious. We all do need to be very cautious until tomorrow," Caldwell said.

Schools, courts and government offices were closed in Maui County in preparation for the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent emergency teams and supplies to Maui ahead of the storm. The National Guard has mobilized personnel and trucks to the east side of Maui.

President Donald Trump has signed a disaster declaration for Hawaii, which will help FEMA respond, the governor said.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled flights by its commuter airline, Ohana by Hawaiian.

Public schools on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai were open.

Tourists, like Randy McQuay from Texas, weren't letting the storm dampen their vacations. "No, coming from Houston we're used to storms and hurricanes," he said. "Didn't expect to find one in Hawaii, but yeah we're used to it."

Solana Miller, who lives on Oahu's North Shore, said she wasn't too worried about Olivia.

She has leftover preparations from when Hurricane Lane passed near the state last month.

"We kind of just kept all the water and the cans of food and stuff," she said, "so if anything really hits we'll be fine."