Storm Could Cause ‘Catastrophic Flooding’ in Hawaii, Forecasters Warn

Some parts of the islands could see as much as 25 inches of rain through Tuesday, meteorologists said. “This is an extreme weather event,” an emergency official said on Monday.,


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A seasonal cyclone is expected to inundate Hawaii with heavy rainfall though Tuesday afternoon, with the potential for “catastrophic flooding,” landslides and widespread power outages throughout the islands, the National Weather Service said.

The cyclone is a type of storm called a kona low, which typically stall, drop large amounts of rain in one location and come from a southerly direction, bringing moisture to areas that do not usually get much rainfall, the service said.

But given the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, it is rare for a kona low to stall directly over the Hawaiian islands, as one is doing this week, meteorologists said.

“This is an extreme weather event,” said Adam Weintraub, a spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

As of early Monday morning, parts of Maui had already received about 11 inches of rain, “a dangerous amount,” according to David Roth, a meteorologist with the Weather Service.

That danger is expected to heighten, officials said, as rainfall totals could reach 10 to 15 inches across the state by Tuesday, with isolated areas seeing up to 25 inches, according to the service.

Already, the cyclone was causing disruptions. On Sunday night on Maui, the Kahului Airport experienced a power outage, and several roads were closed overnight, Mr. Weintraub said.

On Monday morning, officials across the state were bracing for flooding.

All the islands were on a flood watch on Monday, several public schools canceled classes and the governor of Hawaii, David Ige, warned residents on Twitter, “now is the time to make sure you have an emergency plan in place and supplies ready should you need to move away from rising water.”

The mayor of Hawaii County, Mitchell Roth, declared a state of emergency on Sunday, allowing state agencies to mobilize and request assistance from the federal government in the event of a disaster.

About 9,000 people in Hawaii were without power on Monday morning, according to, a website that tracks power failures. State officials were anticipating that number to increase throughout the day.

The eastern sections of the state, including the cities of Keaau and Hilo, could experience the heaviest rainfall on Monday, Mr. Weintraub said. The cyclone is expected to shift westward on Monday night and early Tuesday morning, the Weather Service said.

Officials are preparing for “fast water rescues” in significantly flooded areas, Mr. Weintraub said.

Because “everything runs off” easily from the slick volcanic rocks of Hawaii’s natural geography, including lava and water, flooding could be severe in parts of the islands, said Mr. Roth, the meteorologist.

“For areas that are volcanic, you’re dealing with steep slopes, especially in places where people are living near the base of them — so yeah, that’s a problem,” he said.

The Weather Service said that “numerous” landslides were expected in areas with steep terrain.

“Debris in streams and gulches may clog bridges and culverts resulting in dangerous flooding,” the service said. It also said that isolated highways and urban areas, especially on Oahu, could also have severe flooding.

Meteorologists warned residents to avoid walking or driving through floodwaters on Monday and Tuesday.

The storm system also brought snow to the Big Island summits, which rise to well over 11,000 feet. But meteorologists said that was not an uncommon elevation for snow to fall, even on a tropical island — and that the rain was a much more important concern.

“I worry that one of our social media posts made everyone focus on the blizzard rather than the rain, which is exactly the same system,” Mr. Roth said.

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