Hawaii residents awoke to sun after more than 40 days of downpours that left a wake of havoc across the islands and broke records for rain at the wettest place on earth.
Nearly 92 inches — or about 7.5 feet — of rain were recorded during March at Mount Waialeale, considered the rainiest spot on the planet. The previous record was about 90 inches in April 1971, according to the National Weather Service.
Even the normally dry Honolulu Airport received more rain in the first three months of 2006 than in all of 2005.
The near biblical downfall left the islands disheveled with debris, flooded homes, and led to a sewage spill in the water off Waikiki.
The largest toll was taken on Kauai, where seven died when a century-old earthen dam strained by the heavy rains burst March 14 sending a wall of water crashing through homes to the sea.
Last week, a sewer line broke when it was overwhelmed by heavy rain and sent some 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean. But the beaches of Waikiki were open again Saturday, with only a hint of suntan lotion lingering in the air and crowds back on the sand — though fewer than usual in the water.
Sitting on towels with three friends at Waikiki, Susan Orr, of Colby, Kan., said she came to Hawaii in honor of her 50th birthday. It was the last day of their vacation, and the first decent day of sun.
“Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose,” she said.
Honolulu was still cleaning up after a massive downpour Friday that sent mud sliding down hills and turned streets into gushing rapids of brown churning water.
Along with flooding homes, the rain sent merchandise floating at Kahala Mall, where waters rushed into a movie theater and inundated 90 shops with more than a foot of water.
Larry Leopardi, division chief of road maintenance for Honolulu, said the spate of rain that began on Feb. 19 has been like living in a hurricane.
“It’s one of those storms that keeps giving,” said Leopardi, whose crew have been working around the clock seven days a week.
Gov. Linda Lingle took a tour of area on Oahu damaged in Friday’s floods. The tour with state Adjutant General Robert Lee and Civil Defense Vice Director Ed Teixeira began with a look at a Manoa home damaged by a landslide earlier this week and a walk through flooded Kahala Mall.
With Department of Land and Natural Resources Director Peter Young, Lingle later surveyed the damage from the air — including the North Shore where the Kahuku High School track was partially flooded.
“It would be hard for anyone to understand what the rains and flooding had done to these affected areas, unless one could see it on the ground and from the air,” Lingle said. “It was quite dramatic.”
She and other officials are trying to determine if the storms that began in February qualify the islands for federal disaster relief assistance.
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