Flooding caused by up to 20 inches of rain abated Saturday on the eastern side of the island of Oahu, and most of the 2,800 evacuees returned home to clean up damage estimated to be at least $29 million, officials said.
The New Year's Eve flash floods left 72 people homeless.
"We worked so hard for this, and now it's all gone," said Pat von Arnswaldt, standing in six inches of mud in her living room in the home she and her husband, Bill, bought three years ago. "Two weeks ago our brand new furniture was delivered. Two weeks ago. And now it's gone," she said.
The Von Arnswaldts' home in the Hahaione Valley is on Kahena Street, which was transformed into a raging creek when water overflowed a canal clogged with trees and boulders and carved a channel up to 20 feet deep in places.
Bounces Cars Like Toys
The water left a mixture of mud, paving slabs and boulders in yards, along with dozens of dented cars that were bounced along the street like toys.
Some people had to be rescued by boat or wade through rushing water with the help of firefighters and police, but no injuries were reported.
Most of the evacuees went to stay with friends or relatives in other parts of Oahu, which had only light but steady rain during the downpour in the east. By Saturday morning, only a handful of people remained at the several evacuation centers set up at schools in the area.
In Niu Valley, an area where homes are in the $250,000 range and up, Waldon Chung told of his losses.
'No One Was Hurt'
"Our house was full of antiques my wife and I spent 10 years collecting in Europe," Chung said. "But no one was hurt. That's the main thing."
Oahu Civil Defense officials estimated damage at $29 million, stressing that the estimate was preliminary and likely to rise. Most of the damage was done to homes, and insurance generally does not cover flood damage, industry spokesman Robert Grantham said.
"Very clearly, this is a disaster, and after I receive a full inventory (of damage) from the city, I will declare it so," Gov. John Waihee said.
A disaster declaration would free state funds and make available low-interest loans for repairs. It also is a step toward seeking a federal disaster declaration.
The National Weather Service said a repeat of the storm was unlikely, although weather over the islands remained unsettled.