Rainy Day

The sound of the pouring rain woke me up this morning. It was barely light, but instead of lulling me back to sleep, the rain had me worried. This was the kind of rain that overflowed the gutters, saturated the ground, flowed around the house, and sometimes into the garage. I tried to go back to sleep, thinking the house was fine, it weathers these storms 2 or 3 times each year, but then I saw it was almost 8 am—the rainclouds were so thick they blotted out the light.

So I got out of bed, got out the umbrella and checked around the house. Sure enough, the gutters were overflowing, the back yard was saturated and covered deep puddles, and the garage was wet. There was also a mini waterfall down the neighbor’s hillside stairs. But other than some potted plants getting too much water and some erosion in the bare dirt of the garden, everything was fine.

It was also cold, so I put on socks and sweater and settled into a warm oatmeal breakfast with hot tea. The rain came and went, and came again. The heavy rain turned into a thunderstorm, with lightning and thunder off and on. The closest was a 3-one-thousand (3000 feet or 1km). The poor birds outside looked miserable:

Zebra Dove
Java Sparrow

I checked the NOAA website with rain gauge information, thinking it would be worse on Wai’ale’ale:

Source: NOAA/National Weather Service

But no, the east side where I live was the rainiest, with Anahola getting over 5 inches (125mm) in just 3 hours. We couldn’t be too far behind, maybe 3.5-4 inches (88-100mm). Then I thought to check the stream gauge data for the Wailua river. This is tonight’s graph, with today’s peak data oddly missing (gauge overflow?). But what I saw in the morning was the continuous rise that could easily dwarf Friday’s peak.

Source: USGS realtime stream gauge data

So I talked the family into going to see the east-side waterfalls, so we went for a Sunday drive in the country. And we were not disappointed. First was Opaeka’a falls:


Across the road, the Wailua river was running brown and looking like it was going to overflow its banks. The Kamokila village down there was closed (but maybe it’s not open on Sunday):


Then we drove to Wailua falls. Everthing along the road was soaked, and the ditches by the golf course were full. But there didn’t seem to be any flooding, so the county’s work on clearing the vegetation out of the drainage ditches has paid off. Even the Kaua’i roosters were soaked, their feathers dull and their tails drooping.

Wailua falls was even more impressive, with the full flow of the South Fork plunging over. I estimate there was 2-3 feet of water going over the full width of the waterfall—except the one place on the left where a tree was still clinging to the edge:


We stood there for over 15 minutes with our umbrellas, fascinated at the wall of water tumbling down. The brown water flowed over in a solid sheet, then it separated into streams and finally separated into white water drops in very intricate and ever-changing patterns. I tried to get a photo of the effect, but my camera is not good enough, so this is just an enlargement of the previous photo:


Almost as impressive was the massive cloud of spray that was blowing the trees like a strong wind. We did see two tropic birds flying around, wondering why they were flying in the mist and what the view was like from there. And with all that water, the round pool at the bottom was gone, all the rocks and vegetation covered by the outflow.


On the way home, I pulled over at Wailua beach and walked on the bike path back across the new bridge. The river mouth was spread out wider than the length of the bridge:


The rains finally stopped in the afternoon, and there were even some nice sunset colors. Tonight, I looked up the total rain for the past 24 hours. Different parts of the island received rain at different times last night and today, but the overall totals are all above 3 inches (75 mm), with an average of 5.6 inches (142mm) across the entire island.

Source: NOAA/National Weather Service

More news the following day:

  • The Hanalei river gauge had a similar graph, and the Hanalei bridge was closed. Reports are that water was flowing over the bridge. The difference was that in Hanalei, you could also see the waterfalls coming down the mountains.
  • While the rainfall was impressive, this was pretty much a normal winter storm. Kaua’i usually gets 3 or 4 of these per year between November and March. The Garden Island newspaper has a similar photo of Opaeka’a falls with even more water from December 2010.
  • Some storms have been much worse, for example when the Hanalei river valley flooded in November 2009 or the Kaloko dam broke in March 2006 after 30 days of rain.
  • There was indeed a beautiful sunset after all the rain, if you were on the south or west side.
  • Today was mostly sunny with only one rain-shower so far.
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1 Comment   »

  1. Frank says:

    I looked real close at Wailua Falls to see if Indiana Jones was going over in a old floating jeep!

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