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More than a foot of rain has fallen and power is out across Hawaii due to storm

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A major winter storm is drenching Hawaii. Since the weekend, more than 14 inches of rain have fallen in some areas. Meteorologists say that number could nearly double by tonight. Flooding is a concern across the state, and the power is out in some parts of Honolulu and other large cities. Hawaii Public Radio's Bill Dorman joins us from Honolulu.

And first, Bill, what are the conditions like where you are at this point?

BILL DORMAN, BYLINE: Aloha, Audie. Conditions in Honolulu actually are definitely improved from overnight when there was a pretty relentless deluge across the island of Oahu. The rain was pounding, intense, falling at more than two inches an hour in some places. And with flash flooding in many locations, power outages, as you mentioned, felt across parts of the island including downtown Honolulu, where traffic lights were out on the main streets. Power was out at the state capitol building as well. Thousands of people from Hawaii Island to Maui and Oahu have felt power outages in the last few days as the storm system has moved slowly across the islands. Crews have been working to restore power, and that's looking better in many parts of Honolulu today. But in more rural areas, and for parts of other islands, that's likely to be a longer process.

CORNISH: What are state officials saying?

DORMAN: Well, it's been a combination of efforts on repair, restoration, clearing roads - in some cases dealing with mudslides, downed trees. Crews are also working to restore electricity, of course. And the mayor of each county has been taking specific steps as needed in different situations. The mayors of Hawaii County and Maui declared states of emergencies. Their communities were the first to be hit. And then late yesterday, Gov. David Ige declared a statewide emergency to free up any further needed funding.

CORNISH: That power is being restored. But is the weather cooperating? I mean, what are people focused on now?

DORMAN: Well for some it is a matter of cleanup, but there's also a lingering threat of flooding. When the ground becomes saturated with all that rain, it leaves it vulnerable so that any small further amount of rain will have an outsized impact. Many across the islands are familiar with that experience. And also, a flood watch remains in effect today for the island of Oahu and also for Kauai.

CORNISH: You know, in the introduction, I mentioned it being winter. And there is a rainy season - right? - during the winter for Hawaii. But I gather that this is unusual.

DORMAN: It's true. It's really a matter of degree, you know, the level of severity, the intensity of this storm system. A few days ago, when there were blizzard warnings for the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island, that got a lot of attention - comparisons to the continental United States because snow on the island of Hawaii when want it hadn't yet even snowed in Denver. Snow is not unusual for those mountains, but it's a matter of degree. And that's been the case really with these rains now for the Big Island, for Maui, and now for Oahu and Kauai as well.

CORNISH: Right. I mean, conditions are different on each island, but I'm getting the sense from you there's kind of a shared feeling about this.

DORMAN: You know, there is a humbling aspect to a storm system like this. It really shows the power of the natural world. That's something you feel every day in Hawaii. But you also get a sense of that vulnerability, that fragility. It's the most isolated island archipelago in the world. And a storm system like this is a reminder of that. Each island feels it in a different way, but there's something shared - spirit to it as well. I think aloha is wrapped up in that, too.

CORNISH: That's Bill Dorman with Hawaii Public Radio in Honolulu.

Thank you for your reporting. Stay safe.

DORMAN: You, too. Aloha, Audie.

(SOUNDBITE OF ZOE KEATING'S "FERN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.