This past weekend we truly discovered the destructiveness of nature on the Big Island. Throughout the morning and early afternoon, it was evident that a storm was coming because we all heard thunder and saw dark clouds in the distance. They seemed to be originating from the Kona (opposite) side of the island. We had all went to town for a local farmer's market that is held every other Sunday in Honoka'a. All of the group except me and one other planned to come back to the farm early because they wanted to stay for an event that night. It began to rain as soon as we started the 4-mile walk back. I did not want to walk the whole way back in the rain so I began to run while my friend continued to walk. After about a mile and a half, a couple of guys picked me up in their SUV and drove me back the rest of the way. This was extremely helpful because I still would have had to run over 2 miles and it was now pouring. After about an hour after I got back my friend walked up soaked and he also eventually got a ride. There were only 6 of us on the farm at this point because everyone else was still in town. At around 6:00 PM it started downpouring as I have never seen before. Winds also kicked up and lightning was striking so close to us that there was no pause before the sound of thunder to follow it. We had previously received flash flood warnings during the day but we also receive those warnings just about any time there is a rainstorm so we thought nothing of it.
By 7:00 PM the rain had only intensified. Then, it really hit us. After 7, everything went downhill fast. We first started to see and a small steady stream of water flowing down next to the classroom where we were all at. This stream then quickly grew into a raging rapid flowing down the whole property while picking up and transporting anything that got in its way. We saw whole banana tree trunks, cinderblocks, and garbage cans carried by this newly created river and it was not good. One of us then ran through it to see that the kitchen was completely flooded with water constantly rushing in. The only dry area left was the classroom. Our cabanas had their tarps ripped from the screen windows and everything was soaked. In the lower cabanas, there was 3 to 4 inches of standing water. They were inhabitable. The worst had yet to come.
We knew there was no hope in our cabanas so we lifted and salvaged any important or electronic things we had in them to try and prevent them from getting wet. We brought most things to the classroom where it was still dry. Then the water broke through. Water quickly rushed into the classroom and there was not a dry spot left. We quickly unplugged everything and stood on chairs because the standing water was growing and there are live outlets in the classroom. We did not know what to do from there. Everyone else including the farm manager was in town and it was just 6 interns on the farm. 6 interns standing on chairs while watching huge amounts of water rush by us, frantically calling and texting our parents because we did not know what was happening or going to happen. This fear that it would not stop was very real. We were able to get in contact with the others in town but they could not get to us right away because the rain had caused a landslide that blocked part of the road to the farm.
It would not be until around 9:30 that they would get to us. By that time, the rain had slowed and the river when back to a small stream. The standing water in the classroom eventually went away but there were mud and puddles everywhere. We could finally walk around and assess the damage and protect anything in the event that it picked up again. We saw the full damages in the kitchen and our cabanas. The kitchen was absolutely destroyed and unrecognizable. The cabanas were hit or miss. Some were heavily damaged while some just had a wet floor and wet clothes inside them. Luckily, I just had some wet clothes, a wet sleeping bag, and a wet suitcase to deal with. Unfortunately for me though, this meant I could definitely not sleep there. The temperatures were reaching high 40s and with wind and everything being wet, hypothermia would have been a strong possibility without a dry sleeping bag. This was the case for everyone which meant we needed a place to sleep. We knew either way that we were not getting much sleep that night. And we were right. We ended up setting up our hammocks in a garage under where our directors and farm managers stay. This was the only place that would keep us dry. We were dry but also very cold and with limited numbers of dry blankets and an increased number of bodies, we would not get warm. I maybe slept 2 hours that night in the hammock.
The next day we could see the full damage to the farm in general. During the storm a tree apparently fell into a ditch that flows through the property and dammed it, causing the water to flow down and flood the farm. This is what caused it all to go so wrong so quickly. The damage to the farm was extensive. The flood brought down four trees around the property and completely washed away three compost piles and large chunks of gardens. Everyone including the farm manager was baffled. We are currently still cleaning up from this and have a long way to go. The kitchen finally got all the mud and dirt cleaned out but it is still unclear when the utilities all work. The classroom was power washed but repairing the actual land has been the most time-consuming and labor-intensive work so far. We are still finding bits of trash all the way down by the road from the trash cans carried by the river. No one on the farm had ever seen anything like this and even locals told us they have not either. They said that it does not usually end up being this bad unless it is a hurricane or tropical storm. They believe it was so bad also due to the fact it came without warning and no one was prepared. The 6 of us were definitely not prepared for that. We witnessed nature in its full effect and how quickly anything can be washed away.
(Compost piles washed away)