A severe winter storm battered the Hawaiian Island chain from New Year's Eve to January 4, 2005, causing property damage and producing giant storm surf. The first signs of trouble came on December 30, 2004, when lightning started flashing endlessly in the Kauai Channel. The heavy rains and thunderstorms stalled over Kauai on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, dumping an inch per hour in many locations. Rain totals approached nine inches in some areas. Flooding and high winds caused the closing of roads, landslides and backed-up cesspools, rendering the island impassable. Luckily no one was reported injured. Several sinkholes formed and sewage spilled onto the property of the Kauai Marriott. The sinkholes swallowed cars, large banyan trees, coconut palms and a famous Cook pine. An estimated 132,000 gallons of sewage spilled onto the Kalapaki Bay beach starting on Saturday, causing state health officials to close the area. While the hotel accepted responsibility for the spill, speculating that the hotel's sewage treatment plant failed in the heavy rains, the spill was actually triggered by the Kauai County facility in Lihue, according to state Health Department Spokesperson Laura Lott. The hotel remained fully operational even after an evacuation plan was approved, later abandoned as the rains subsided. Sewage leaks during heavy rains are possible until repairs are completed.
Meanwhile, high winds and heavy rains assaulted Oahu and Molokai on Jan. 1st and 2nd, and by Jan. 3rd the storm had settled in on the Big Island, causing High Wind Warnings and Flash Flood Advisories.
On Oahu, ocean safety officials closed Kaena Point State Park near Yokohama Bay on the West Side after huge whitewater pushed more than a foot of sand across the road leading into the park.
Snow showers and 80 mph wind gusts hit the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island on Jan. 3rd & 4th, according to the National Weather Service.
Roads were closed to the public above 9,000 feet, with crews working all day to clear the snow. Even now that the storm has passed, low visibility, subzero temps and 55 mph winds persist at Mauna Kea's summit. A foot of snow has fallen in some areas.
Huge onshore surf hit many north and west shore beaches in the 20- to 30-foot range and many shoreline roadways had sand and debris left on them from the unusually high surf. A High Surf Warning for the affected shores of Kauai, Niihau, Oahu, Maui and Molokai was in effect for several days.
On Jan. 3, Waimea Bay endured massive waves that were closing out the bay from dawn to around noon. Heavy whitewater surged up over the beach and into Waimea River. Most beaches on the west and north sides of each island had to be closed. Lifeguards recorded many saves, including a tourist couple that was swept off their feet at Ke Iki Beach on Oahu's North Shore.
The storm made for some rare good waves on the east side of Oahu and west side on the Big Island. Currently the North Shore of Oahu has sandbars in places never before witnessed.
A second storm in what appears to be a series of three is making its way across the Hawaiian Islands. This second storm is being described as "mild" compared to the first storm that finally left the Hawaiian Islands yesterday. Some areas managed to see a half-day of sun between storms, while other regions never dried out before the second wave of rains arrived in the afternoon on Jan. 5.
The third storm in this current series is scheduled to arrive on Sunday, Jan. 9. Although this storm is still forming, the NOAA folks have advised that this one has the potential to set record rainfall totals. These storms are linked to the ones that have been pounding the West Coast of the mainland U.S.
The Backdoor Shootout surf contest, scheduled for Pipeline from Jan. 4-14, is now on hold. "The Shootout is all shot-out…" said would be spectator Jon Shimabukuro from Pipe this morning as 12-foot storm surf hammered the North Shore of Oahu.
Stay tuned for updates on the storm and results from the contest.