National Guard

Rescue Crews Airlift Hundreds Stranded After Hawaii Storm

Another batch of rain is expected to hit the island Thursday, but won't be as severe

More than 465 people have been rescued from dangerous floodwaters on the Hawaiian island of Kauai as of Wednesday, and evacuation efforts are still underway, according to local media. 

The U.S. Army, National Guard, and the county have airlifted more than 340 people from the area since Monday and are going back for more evacuations, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho's office said Wednesday. 

As the island works to recover from a damaging storm system that moved through over the weekend, officials and crews are working to clear landslides and repair fallen utility poles. Meanwhile, state health officials have advised residents in some areas not to drink or cook with tap water as a precautionary measure due to a damaged main line.

Heavy rains caused flooding and mudslides Saturday, forcing residents and tourists into evacuation centers. Roads were closed, including on the island's North Shore.

One San Diego family caught in rising floodwaters was assisted to safety by prominent big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, who lives in the area, NBC San Diego reported

"He just kind of boated right up and was like, 'OK, come through the mud and the slime and come throw your bags in and let's go,'" Erin Gwilliam said.

The National Weather Service recorded 28.1 inches (71 centimeters) of rainfall in the small North Shore town of Hanalei between 2 a.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday. The record for a 24-hour period in Hanalei was set in 2012 at 28.54 inches (73 centimeters).

Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources said about 25 people elected to be airlifted out of a state park on Kauai on Monday.

Additionally, 13 people were still stuck at a shelter in Kilauea, a small town on the northeastern shore, Coralie Matayoshi, CEO of the American Red Cross of Hawaii, said Tuesday.

"We'll be starting to do damage assessment in Kauai for the first time today, because the weather was bad and the roads were blocked. We couldn't do it before," Matayoshi said.

Hanalei Elementary School, the only school closed on Kauai, kept its doors shut Wednesday, but anticipated reopening on Thursday.

A flash flood warning for the island has been issued through at least Friday afternoon, and more rain is expected to hit the area Thursday. This system, however, isn't expected to cause as much damage as this past weekend's system. 

"While this system isn’t expected to be as severe as the last one, we will be keeping a close eye on the weather and make the necessary adjustments to keep all our people and visitors safe," Carvalho, Kauai's mayor, said in a press release.

On Tuesday, Hawaii Governor David Ige directed the Department of Taxation to extend tax filing deadlines for residents affected by the flooding; this includes an extension to pay state taxes that would otherwise be due on Friday.

Taxpayers can also claim casualty loss deductions, or deduct their losses on their 2018 income tax returns.

There have been no reports of major injuries. At least two vacant houses on the North Shore were completely washed off their foundations, county spokeswoman Sarah Blane said Monday.

"It's definitely the worst storm in recent memory," Blane said.

Some residents said the storm was worse than Hurricane Iniki in 1992.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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