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Record flood stuns Hawaii

BY SUSAN KIM | Hilo, HI | November 3, 2000

As floodwaters in the Hilo area receded on Friday, they left chunks of asphalt ripped from the streets, washed-out bridges,

destroyed homes, and ruined vehicles.

A record-breaking 26.22 inches of rain fell, ending late Thursday, from a band of thunderstorms that moved through the area.

Dozens of families sought refuge in shelters. By Friday, they were able to see damages to their homes and in their community.

Emergency response officials are still assessing the number of homes that were destroyed. Many community facilities -- among

them the Hilo United Methodist Church, Kinoole Baptist Church, and Salvation Army thrift store -- were flooded.

The American Red Cross has opened shelters to meet people's emergency needs, while the Salvation Army has been providing

food on an as-needed basis. Faith-based organizations are assessing damages to determine a wider response as well as a

long-term recovery plan.

Floodwaters rose so quickly that residents had to be rescued from the roofs of their houses. "One family in our church lost

everything," said the Rev. Rick Ragle, pastor at the Hilo Church of the Nazarene. "They were sleeping and their neighbors had

to wake them up. The grandmother's bed was floating. They don't swim and they ended up stranded on the roof until they

were rescued. It was a harrowing experience."

Several landslides blocked the Hawaii Belt Highway but no injuries or deaths were reported.

"Now the sun is shining and the air is very clear. It looks like the disaster is over," said Ragle. "But now is when the hardship of

rebuilding begins. Now is when it hits."

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