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4 feet of rain in 24 hours? See who set new national record

Jaclyn Whittal

Friday, April 27, 2018, 18:30 - The intense rain event that caused devastating flooding in Hawaii earlier this month may have just claimed a dubious new distinction.

Torrential rains that began on Friday, April 13, and lasted through the weekend brought down hillsides, collapsed roads, and damaged vehicles and buildings throughout the islands, with the majority of the destruction centered on the island of Kauai. Now, rain gauge data being collected from the island indicates that this devastating event may have set a new 24-hour rainfall record - not just for the island, but for the entire country.

How Much Rain? 

During the 24-hour period between April 14 and 15, a rain gauge located in Waipa (about 1 mile West of Hanalei) in north Kauai recorded a staggering 49.69 inches of rainfall. That's a little more than 4 feet of rain - an incredible stat!

To put this in perspective, during the entire event of Hurricane Harvey - which set a new storm-total record for rainfall over 5 days - we only saw about 10 inches more than this. The official record-breaking rainfall gauge in Nederland, Texas, northeast of Houston, measured 60.58 inches. Rainfall within a tenth of an inch of that total was recorded in Groves, a neighboring community. These both exceed the previous U.S. rainfall storm-total record of 52 inches, set by Hurricane Hiki in Hawaii in 1950.

The current title for highest rainfall in 24 hours is held by a gauge in Alvin, Texas, and stands at 43 inches. That July 25, 1979 inundation arrived courtesy of Tropical Storm Claudette. If the Waipa gauge amount is certified by NOAA researchers, it will break this nearly 40-year-old record. So far we have only preliminary data, which could still change pending review by the National Climatic Extremes Committee.

The Widespread Flooding 

Flash flood watches and warnings were in effect at times for the entire state of Hawaii through much of the mid-April weekend, thanks to a trough of low pressure drifting slowly over the chain. As low pressure strengthened and tapped moisture from further south in the Pacific, easterly winds funneled moisture into the very mountainous regions of Kauai. It might not be the first thing you think of when you picture Hawaii's beaches, but the state is very mountainous; the highest peak on Kauai stands at 5,148 ft above sea level. When winds and moisture pile up against a mountain range it can enhance the rainfall as the air forced up. Air condenses and creates clouds and heavy rainfall.

ICYMI: Startling images of the devastating flooding in Hawaii

Road to recovery

Landslides blocking roads and damaged infrastructure have given local business something else to worry about in the wake of the historic flooding in Hawaii - tourism. Some officials are expressing concerns that visitors will be deterred from visiting the islands based on reports of the widespread damage, and are urging tourists to keep coming to prevent an economic downturn on the heels of the natural disaster.

"My concern is the economic impact should those businesses start closing up — even temporarily — because they do employ a significant amount of our residents," Kauai County Council Chairman Mel Rapozo told the Associated Press. "A lot of people will lose their jobs. And that's going to cause another situation here for Kauai." Rapozo said that, apart from side roads which may still be under repair, many restaurants and shops have reopened in the hardest hit parts of the island.

Sources: AP | NWS |

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