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Storm floats away from Hawaii after ‘almost biblical’ rains

HONOLULU – A once-powerful hurricane turned and drifted away from Hawaii, leaving behind heavily saturated ground on the Big Island and the residents on the other islands, relieved not wreak more havoc.

Firefighters on the Big Island and rescued 39 people from the flooded area Friday through early Saturday, as the island struggled with the almost 4 feet (1.2 meters) of rain from the Tropical Storm Lane, formerly known as the Hurricane Lane dumped on the eastern part of the island in the course of three days.

In Honolulu, where the storm dumped only a few inches of rain, retailers, removed plywood from their windows and reopened for business.

The National Weather Service canceled all storm warnings for the state.

Preliminary figures from the weather service show that Lane had the fourth largest amount of rain for a hurricane to hit the United States since 1950. Hurricane Harvey, which destroyed Texas a year ago, topped the list.

The storm from the outer bands dumped as much as 45 inches (114 cm) in the mostly rural Big Island, measurements have shown. The main city of Hilo, population 43,000, was flooded Friday with waist-high water.

“It was almost biblical proportions,” said Kai Kahele, a state senator, who represents Hilo. The ground was soggy on Saturday, he said, and it was dark and it was raining.

But Hilo is accustomed to rain, he noted. And the Wailuku River, which raged with drainage, a name that means “destructive water” in Hawaiian. Native Hawaiians who have lived in the area hundreds of years to know how dangerous the river can be, Kahele said.

Hawaii County Civil Defense spokeswoman Kelly Wooten said teams were evaluating the damage, but by continuing to focus on the recovery efforts because of the persistent rainfall.

Big Island Book Buyers in Hilo open as normal Saturday morning after a owner Mary Bicknell saw a bit of sun.

“Everyone is in very good spirits. It is a kind of beautiful,” she said of her customers for adding everyone was “hoping and praying that it is over.”

Of the island, erupting volcanoes, and the rain still could cause whiteout conditions on some active lava fields, as it hits the molten rock and comes out in the form of steam.

About 200 miles (320 km) and several islands in the northwest, tourists on the island of Oahu wandered from Waikiki Beach and took a relaxing swim as retailers prepare to reopen.

Hotels, tight, deck chairs back next to the swimming pools. Dozens of surfers were in the Pacific ocean, looking to ride small waves. The wind was light.

Winds were much calmer on Maui, which had seen about 12 inches (30 cm) of rain and gusts up to 50 mph (80 km / h). On Saturday, winds were about 11 mph (18 km / h). Like the Big Island and Maui experienced flooding and landslides.

Lane for the first time approached the islands earlier this week as a Category 5 hurricane, which means that it will cause catastrophic damage with winds of 157 mph (252 km / h) or higher. But the upper level winds known as the shear quickly tore the storm apart.

As floods hit the Big Island, the wind sparked a brush fire that had broken out in the dry lands of Maui and Oahu. Some residents in a shelter on Maui had to flee from the flames of fire, and another fire forced people from their homes.

Fire burned nine homes in the historic seaside town of Lahaina and forced 600 people to evacuate, Maui County spokeswoman Lynn Araki-Regan said. Some have returned, but many have not, because much of the area lacks the power, Araki-Regan said.

That failure meant the water provider on Maui’s west side is not able to pump, so that the officials at the Maui electricity company insisted on a retention — particularly important because the fire department needs supplies to the remaining flames.

The central Pacific gets less hurricanes than the other regions, with only about four or five named storms per year. Hawaii is rarely hit. The last major storm to hit was Iniki in 1992. Others have come close over the past few years.

“It’s great that it’s not about us,” Nick Palumbo II, who lives and owns a surf shop on the island of Lanai, said Lane.

He worried, however, that the near-miss would give residents a false sense of security.

“We are going to get nailed once, and people don’t listen,” Palumbo said, “exactly like” The Boy Who Cried Wolf.'”

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Associated Press journalists Brian Skoloff and John Locher in Honolulu; and Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska; and Darlene Superville in Washington; and Justin Pritchard in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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