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Hawaii's Big Island Gets The Worst Of Hurricane Lane


For much of last week, Hurricane Lane was moving steadily and dangerously close to Hawaii. Now Lane has been downgraded to a tropical storm. It's moving back out to sea. But the hurricane was large enough and got close enough to the Hawaiian islands to cause flooding, landslides and damage to some homes. The island to get the worst of it was Hawaii's Big Island, which is where NPR's Adrian Florido filed this report.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: The Wailuku River on Hawaii's Big Island begins up in the mountains and flows down through the lush green town of Hilo before pouring out into Hilo Bay. Along the way, a tiny tributary of that river runs under a bridge by Margaret Collins' House. Last week, it overflowed. And when I visited over the weekend, a friend was using a Super Vac to help her dry up the mess that started Wednesday night, and Collins heard a rumble.

MARGARET COLLINS: I got up out of bed, looked out that window, saw water about 3 feet coming around the back of the house.

FLORIDO: The area under the bridge had gotten clogged by downed trees and branches, and the torrential flow had nowhere to go but over the bridge right onto Collins' property like a tidal wave, she said, with so much force it knocked over the brick wall out in front.

COLLINS: And that front door was buckling in because the water was this high already.

FLORIDO: The whole house flooded, and part of the foundation washed away. It took firefighters four hours to rescue her and the neighbor using a rope. Collins says it hasn't all sunken in yet.

COLLINS: But it is overwhelming. And it's a wakeup call in terms of what water can do as a destruction.

FLORIDO: As Hurricane Lane gained strength last week, forecasters warned that parts of Hawaii could get 10 to 20 inches of rain, some parts up to 30. But on the Big Island, Lane surpassed all those estimates by so much that some people like Margaret Collins, who never would have thought their homes were at risk, suddenly found themselves waist-deep in water. She has no flood insurance.

COLLINS: And it's going to come out all out of my pocket.

FLORIDO: This weekend, after the waters had receded, about 20 friends came over to help Collins sweep out the mud, vacuum up the moisture and salvage belongings.


FLORIDO: Paul Muniz grabbed a chainsaw, climbed down into the brook and started cutting away at those branches and logs under the bridge.

PAUL MUNIZ: I'm trying to clean this up so it won't plug again 'cause what happen if we get another big rain? It's going to plug right here, and the water going over again.

FLORIDO: Though the worst of the storm has passed, other parts of the Wailuku River are still raging because the storm dumped so much water that it's taking a long time for it all to drain out to sea. On Saturday, Adam Bonus stopped his car to marvel at one raging section that he said is usually just a trickle. Bonus lives upstream. And the day the rains started, he says, he put out a rain gauge.

ADAM BONUS: We had 14 the first day, Wednesday, 10 and a quarter Thursday and then 24.1 on Friday.

FLORIDO: Ten, 14, twenty...

BONUS: It's...

FLORIDO: That's 48 inches.

BONUS: Yes, 4 feet of water.

FLORIDO: In three days.

BONUS: Three days' time. And my yard just got a couple puddles. I was amazed. So...

FLORIDO: It was all flowing off.

BONUS: It was all going somewhere else, yes.

FLORIDO: That's why he came down to the river, he says. He wanted to see where all that water went. Adrian Florido, NPR News, Hilo, Hawaii.


Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.