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Hawaii flooding: Governor declares disaster on two islands

Anyone dreaming of a sunny winter break in Hawaii this week can forget it: Gov. Neil Abercrombie has declared a disaster on the islands of Kauai and Oahu after days of relentless rain that caused flooding, mudslides, waterspouts, hail and dangerously high surf.

The sun was putting in a brief guest appearance Wednesday, but forecasters said more rain was coming Friday and Saturday -- this after Wainiha, on Kauai, has seen more than 35 inches since Saturday, with more than 15 inches dumped on the island’s main city, Lihue.

Parts of Oahu saw more than 15 inches, and Honolulu officials said the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve would be temporarily closed because of heavy rains and surface runoff. Several golf courses in the state capital also faced closures during the week.

“We’re probably looking at early Friday morning it starting up again,” National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Foster told the Los Angeles Times. An upper-level low-pressure zone, he said, is getting ready to squat just west of Kauai and dump more rain, including possible thunderstorms, on top of the deluge from earlier in the week.

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Kauai residents posted pictures on their Facebook pages of entire rain-flooded valleys and people paddle boarding through strip mall parking lots.

TV station KHON reported that the north shore of Kauai was facing a “traffic nightmare,” where the Kuhio Highway was closed earlier in the week near Kilauea as a result of a failed culvert. The Kalihiwai and Hanalei bridges were also closed, and motorists were routed on unpleasant detours.

“We slept on the side of the road,” Nicole Belanger, who is visiting from Vancouver, Canada, told the television station. “We’re on vacation!”

Emergency shelters were set up earlier in the week at several schools on Kauai.

“This occurrence of a severe, sudden, and extraordinary event has caused extensive damages, losses, and suffering of such character and magnitude to affect the health, welfare, and living conditions of a substantial number of persons, thereby affecting the economy of the state, which is expected to be of such nature as to warrant rehabilitative assistance from the state,” the governor said in his disaster declaration.

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