Hawaii has declared a state of emergency as heavy rains have flooded and destroyed homes, claimed several bridges and led to the evacuation of thousands of people. Experts say Hawaii is becoming generally drier due to climate change, but periods of rainfall have intensified, leading to more dangerous floods and landslides.
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“I’ve just signed an emergency proclamation for the State of Hawai’i after heavy rains and flooding caused extensive damage to both public and private property across the islands,” Governor David Ige posted on Twitter.
Ige warned that the rains are likely to continue for several days and urged residents to move to safety. The Honolulu National Weather Service announced on Wednesday that Hawaii would remain under a flash flood watch.
Among the affected infrastructure is Maui’s Kaupakalua Dam, which was reported to overflow on Monday. Although the dam did not suffer any structural damage, the overflow prompted evacuation orders in nearby regions.
“This has been unprecedented flooding, and we will be making damage assessments today,” Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said. “I ask everyone to stay vigilant and be safe.”
Flood waters have damaged about six homes, with several people calling the fire department on Monday in order to be rescued. More than 1,300 homes in Maui lost power, according to CNN.
Most residents of Maui expressed their shock following the devastating floods. Makawao resident Lydia Toccafondi Panzik told reporters, “I have lived here for 30 years, and I think this is the first time that I have seen so much rain. I’ve seen hurricane times, I’ve seen floodings, but this was really a bad one.”
The islands have been experiencing flash floods at an increasingly alarming rate in recent years. Some scientists have pointed out that the rate of flash floods across Hawaii may even get worse, following the continued effects of climate change. The state’s Climate Change Portal explained that rain patterns on the island have become unpredictable and complex to manage.
“When we do get rain, we get it all at once and that means more landslides, runoff, algae blooms, erosion and flooding,” the state said.