What a hard-rain-night, with rain pounding the roof at a deafening level. It had been raining hard all the day before as well. Sheets of rain fell, thick rain, the kind that you wondered if your umbrella could stand up to.
Yet most people on Kauai did not even own an umbrella, they would just walk in the rain. Mainlanders would wonder why, as Kauai was the rainiest spot on Earth. Yet rain came more often as soft showers in traveling clouds. Locals observed nature to see the patterns and just worked with it.
It was December 14, 1991, and a night no one was prepared for. The rain was still pounding hard on the roof of Mike’s home when I got up to go to the bathroom and to look outside to see how Oink was doing.
Oink was a 400 pound feral pig who Mike Rhodes had tamed and took care of since he was found two years ago.
Somehow this baby pig had separated from his family and wandered down in to the Taro Patch in Anahola, Kauai. Mike loved pigs, and took this piggy home and took care of him.
His name was Rambo, but Oink was his nickname. You could call ‘Oink’ and he would reply to you every time! He was a very smart pig.
Looking outside I could not see Oink as the rain was so thick only the light from inside the house reflecting off of this curtain of silver sheets of rain was seen. I really could see nearly nothing for at 3 am, it was dark as pitch. I heard some knocking around under the second story of this house that reminded me of a boat dock, and could smell paint and other odors in the air.
Then the phone rang, and I overheard Mike’s neighbor say to the recorder, he was evacuating his home as water was getting too high. Kim lived next door in a one story tiny home.
I woke Mike up. Mike shot out of bed like a rocket. On a higher self level he knew we were in grave danger. He called Kim on the phone but no answer, so we looked outside with the aid of Mike’s big search light and we could see Kim, his six-foot built-like-a- football- player brute of a man struggling to get out of his house as the water was up to his waist. The water was pushing hard against him.
Mike and Kim lived next to the Anahola stream which was always had running water yet never named a river due to its size. Rain had been falling hard for over 24 hours and they later said 36 inches of rain had fallen in that period of time over the mountains and town of Anahola. The clouds just sat on top of us.
The river had swollen way outside of its banks and in to everyone’s yards. Mike’s home was in a lower spot than the neighbor’s across the street and now the water had covered his yard. There were times water would come in to their yards and then recede without incident, besides watering the lush vegetation. This night was so different that everyone knew to get to higher ground.
Water had been collecting in the mountains further up the river, and as the soil saturated around the areas that held these large pockets of rain, they gave way to huge amounts of water. We were in the middle of receiving two separate deluges; tsunamis of water released from high in the mountains along with all the rain runoff down the swollen river to the ocean.
Seeing Kim waist deep in water as he left his home, Mike said it was time we left as well. We started down the stairs only to find that the water was already several feet deep and was running so very strong we wondered if we would able to walk up the drive way to Kikoo Loop road.
Since the road was much higher than the ground the house sat on, we would be walking up against water racing down the driveway. We already saw what that was doing to Kim. Kikoo Loop was the old highway over the Anahola river through Kauai’s east side that had been replaced by a new highway and higher, wider bridge.
As Mike was placing his foot in the water to test it, he was thinking that the electrical wiring under the house could very well electrocute us. As I watched his foot being pushed in opposite way we needed to go, I knew that this water was already too strong, even as the excellent swimmer I was, I was not about to get in to it. Both of us sensed a gut feeling not to leave the house. We ran up stairs.
Kim had made it to the road. He tossed his keys in his truck and then went to help Ginger who was having trouble walking in the water running fast over the road. She was also planning on driving out so Kim decided to help her to get to her car.
River Tsunami Hits
Just as Mike and I got inside the house, an up-river tsunami came thundering down ripping up plants and trees that grew on all sides of the river, ran through the middle of the Taro Patch pulling up all the taro, banana trees and flowers, sweeping over the high road, ripping homes off their foundations, and dragging many people in to the swollen river. The force of the water was like a mad-brained bear running at top speed, swiping furiously to all sides.
Looking out the door at the stairwell, the water was now a few steps short of being inside the second story of Mike’s home and you could feel the water pushing against the house. Staring at the high water, astonished, as the stairs were now underwater with a dead bird and plants, swirling in the eddy that formed. Two steps higher and the water would be inside the second story and the force would probably push the house in to the river and scatter it as it broke apart on a trip to the ocean. What were we to do?
I got on the phone and called 911. As soon as a man answered, I started to say “the Anahola river is flooding….”, and before I could ask for help, he replied “we know” and hung up the phone. I felt a hard thud in my stomach and stepped back in shock.
Mike grabbed the phone and called his best friend John Pia who lived in the village and asked him to bring his boat, that the river was flooding and we all were in trouble.
A minute after Mike hung up the phone, two homes crashed past the house and ripped out all the phone and electrical lines. We were in dark, isolated, on our own, sitting in the middle of a raging lake that was moving everything it took out to the ocean.
As we looked out in to the dark night towards the river, we saw car headlights shining up through the water so Mike took his search light and pointed it over to the lights and saw Debby, his neighbor from across the street, crawling up out of the water on her car with headlights pointing to the sky. She found a spot on top of her car grill to sit, between the headlights which went dark soon after. I kept a flashlight shinning on her.
The rest of her station wagon was underwater, rain still pounding, and for the moment, the car was stuck in a stand of banana trees. She sat there huddled in the rain, knowing we saw her. She and I prayed from then on.
Her car was filled with animals in crates she had evacuated just moments ago and they all drowned. She had to bust her way out of the rear window to get out of the sinking trap as the electric doors or windows would not open.
Her husband, John, had just been swept out to the ocean inside their home while he searched for the last cat. We did not know what happened to him at the time. He was found later the next day, dead.
Kim and Ginger were washed off the road instantly, never making it to Ginger’s car and e all the cars park on the road were taken in to the raging river. Kim and Ginger were holding hands but the swirling water ripped them apart, sending them on their own ways. Kim struggled to find something to hold on to or escape the water, somehow, he made it out of the fierce water two different times.
Ginger was lost for some time. We did not know where she was. People found her the next day stuck in a tree, having been battered by the water and anything that floated by her; she was swollen from water, broken bones, and she died two days later.
Rescues in the Night
John brought his row boat and as the water lowered he and Dinks planned to get Mike and I out of the house. Dinks held the rope attached to the boat as John made his way to get us all. When John got to the house, Mike pointed out Debby sitting on her car grill in the yard, so John got her first. He came for us and we had to step over banana trees that were lodged under the house by the stairs.
Mike opted to stay around the area to help, to check for his neighbors while I opted to go to John’s house. Both were marginal choices.
Driving to John’s house, we found water racing down the highway just after crossing the bridge. This natural, yet fast runoff was rushing so hard it was pushing John’s big work truck backwards, down to the raging river. Debby, Susanne, John, and I all had a moment when we looked at each other like this was our last moment; we were all thinking we were going to die.
Just in front of us was Dinks driving his small truck with Linda Rose and Kim, who had found his way back to our neighborhood after being rushed around in the water. Dinks truck was pushed in to Johns and both were inching backwards. Still it rained.
Some man called to us from the high on the bank next to the road, so John tossed a long rope and the man tied it to a tree, while John secured it to his truck. We thought perhaps we would not go down the river with that, unless the tree gave way.
Dinks was the first to evacuate Kikoo Loop, as his family all woke up in floating beds; so he put his wife Stacy and two children in to his truck and started towards the village. As they drove away, they could see their house floating off its foundation seconds later, as it crossed the road in to angry water. The family just evacuated, and did not pick up anything as they rushed to the truck. Dinks only had on his underpants he was sleeping in and with his family was safe in the village, he had come back to help us. Dink’s gathered up neighbors too, then we all headed up the road for John’s house.
As the water was now pushing two trucks down to the swirling death, Kim freaked out and in a bout of adrenal strength, jumped out of the truck in front of us, in and across Dink’s truck bed to John’s truck hood. He wanted to climb the rope. He scaled the rope that was tethered to the tree and truck, to get to the bank. The water was so forceful as he was climbing over the side of the road where a greater amount of water rushing to the river, pushing him around like a leaf. We just watched in silence to see if he could make it.
The water was tearing at him as he fought hard to hold on to the rope, inching up the rope to the bank by overlapping arms and legs in decisive movements. There was a moment when the water looked like it was going to drag him in, pulling on him, but he kept going even as the water pulled on his shorts to reveal a portion of his shiny white buttocks. All of us in the truck, teary eyes, found a tiny bit of humor. He made it to the bank, he was safe. We were feeling hope now.
Just then a long fire truck rushed past up us the road, and flushing us with a wave of water that freaked us out as the trucks moved backwards a bit more. The fire truck stopped at the top of the road to help us.
Linda Rose stepped out of the Dinks truck on to the road, the water instantly tripped her off her feet and we watched Linda Rose slid down the road as if she was on a playground slide, yet so fast and out of sight. Gone. Now we were all silently crying.
The firemen just stood there in shock, and so Kim told them to secure our trucks with a rope tied to the bumper of the fire truck. They tied the rope to the fire truck bumper and Kim made his way to Dinks truck with the other end of the rope and tied it to the truck’s bumper. John used a rope to tie Dinks truck and his truck together. We would then use the rope to hold on to as each of us walked up the road to the firemen. The trucks had to wait till the water subsided. Local Hawaiians were there waiting in their trucks and drove us to John’s home.
Meanwhile, back on Kikoo Loop, Mike stayed behind in the neighborhood to check for other people living on his street. Dean and Tina were still there and so Mike encouraged them to evacuate to the Anahola store. As they walked they encountered a small mud slide covering the road, with the mud up to their knees. Mike told them that they needed to move fast, to hele on, and Dean and Mike grabbed the hands of Tina and dragged her fast over the mud slide. They had to take high steps to clear the mud with each step. When they finally made it to the Anahola store, they heard what they thought was an airplane landing real close.
It was not an airplane, it was a second much larger mud slide that occurred over the same mud that Mike, Dean and Tina struggled through minutes ago. The side of the hill broke free, saturated with rain and raced down the hill leveling everything in its path with a roar.
Two homes were leveled by the second mud slide. Bill and Stacy lived in one and they made it out alive. Andy lived in the other and although he had left his home earlier, he had come back to get his guitar and that was when the mud slide sliced through his home. The roof crushed Andy.
The next day when I sat up on that hillside looking at the path of the mud slide, you could see the mud had cut a BMW car in half on the side of a tree. You could see just half of a car; flattened metal was curled on the tree trunk leaving the front half of the car hanging to one side and the other half of the car was clean gone. The rest was covered in mud somewhere else unseen, I guessed, or in the ocean.
Chaos and Rain
There were many more parts to this story, as it was a complicated night. We were busy counting heads and accounting for everyone as best we could. Fast thinking and moving saved most of us.
While we were at John’s house, we heard that Mike might have been in peril, then it was John, then someone else. We were all waiting to hear if they found Debby’s husband John, Linda Rose or Ginger. There were other stories as the search for everyone was ongoing in the rainy night.
At daylight, people found Linda Rose, who had been whisked down the roadway after stepping out of Dinks truck. When they brought her to John’s house, we were so glad to see her and took her to the shower so she could wash up, yet before she could, I had to remove two chameleons running on her shoulders in pure panic.
Linda Rose said she felt like she was getting sucked under the water on the side of the road, and so she swam with all her might in the opposite direction and was able to climb a tree. She was determined to be swished out to the ocean. This is where they found her just as the sun came up, in a small tree poised over a culvert that drained under the new road and in to the river.
The sun finally rose on what felt like the longest night I have even experienced, as in a disaster, time moves strangely, slow or fast but far from normal.
Disaster Aid Chaos
The emergency 911 phone line had failed us and they figured we all were dead anyway, they later admitted. The regular staff was eating and had someone who may not have been trained well answering the phones, the one who hung up on me! They sent the fire truck to a hysterical man who had no water problems, just frightened. I had only one chance to use the phone before the water unhooked us.
Firemen did not know what to do, they also thought we were already dead as they looked in other areas for people. They helped us out of the road. We were all adrenal stressed, shock and in survival mode. They had already given out their blankets to those at the Anahola store, so they had nothing to offer those of us getting out of the trucks stuck on the road. The fireman said he could take us to the disaster shelter, a local place, which we knew was empty, so we opted to ride to John Pia’s home, family.
Later Red Cross came in to help us, but they were clueless what to do. We had to go to some office in town and wait in line. I waited four hours, sitting in the floor depressed.
Red Cross would NOT help Dinks as he had no ID’s, no home, no electric bill, nothing left, but his family. Red Cross wanted proof. All he owned went down the river, all of it.
Red Cross was already helping people who had not lost anything, but they were professionals at whining. Some walked away with two TV sets.
They gave me a check for $15 for sponges to clean up Mikes house. They had not even been on our street to know what had happened. They had no idea how much cleaning we needed to do and I was in too much shock to know what to say. The first story of his home which was open space filled with man stuff, was not filled with banana trees, dead animals, mud, all the paints and solvents, electrical wires, and muck.
I thought if I rented a power hose to spray off layers of mud, that it might help. But they did not seem to believe me and so I just received ‘sponge money’. I sat on the floor of their hallway for four hours to not get what I needed so desperately. I knew I would never donate money to such an inefficient company.
Mike later asked for some help to buy tools so he could work, and they wanted receipts to show he actually had some, but receipts went down the river and so he got nothing from them. Mike worked on people’s cars in his yard and all his tools and equipment were on the first level.
When Red Cross people finally walked our road a week later, they had a better idea of what the disaster was. They approached Mike who was cleaning the yard and Mike burned their ears off with words of rage pointing out their stupidity over not helping Dinks. Dinks risked his life to save Mikes, mine and others. Dinks lost everything they owned. Dinks was a soft spoken Hawaiian man and so he had given up on that avenue of help. They decided they now had proof. Mike had verified Dinks lived on that very empty looking road. There was no proof there was even a house there, or several homes as about five homes were washed away that night.
So many weird things happened, or perhaps they seemed weird to us in the midst of it all.
We changed that night. None of us would ever be the same people we were the day before. None of us could see the same way. Life was different.
Disasters are a reality check, what is really important. It is not two TV’s, but simply people, food and shelter.
Animals and Insects Knew What Was Coming
Hawaiians found Rambo Oink washed up on the beach, dead. They saw his collar and knew he was Mike’s pet so they gave him a Hawaiian prayer and burial.
Before the rain started, Oink was standing perfectly still in the yard. Not moving. In a ways it felt spooky to me. I called his name and he said nothing. He knew it was coming. He was looking and yet not looking. He was listening. Nature was talking. I felt a chill looking at him, what was going on?
A month before the flood, a colony of ants moved in to Mike’s roof. I watched a huge organized line of them moving fast in a pillar up to the roof. After the flood, they moved out by the third day. They were never interested with what was in our house, only that this house was tall enough.
Two months before some Hawaiian neighbors saw thousands of caterpillars crossing the highway, a migration that appeared to be so unnatural for caterpillars. People stopped their cars to watch this unusual procession.
People do not listen to nature… so we just get the flood as a surprise package.
In Another Dimension
That morning, the rain had stopped and people were roaming the road looking around at the damages. It was wild to see what it looked like in the day light.
Still in shock and I was covered in mud from looking at the site, a lady asked me how much the damage was in monetary terms. How much were the damaged and lost homes and cars worth?
At the time people were still searching for Ginger and John, Debby’s husband. I flashed inside, this lady knows nothing about life, and I walked away crying silently, I had no words. “How much money” was (is) a very disassociated way to view people’s death and disasters in general.
Walking from the highway to turn in to our street, I saw a soaked rat, shaking hard in shock, sitting on the rail. He was an out-picturing of how I felt inside. How many other animals had come through that night? It seemed as if no one cared about the life damage, they wanted to know the monetary damage report.
After the flood, Kikoo Loop was a tourist attraction. People lined the highway bridge looking and pointing, taking photos of the mess; talking to each other with no offers to help anyone down in the mess.
We felt repulsed by their voyeurism; they were looking for a thrill, all so distant. We were in mourning for the dead.
Even the Governor came to look, standing on the bridge overlooking our area, chomping away on an Ono Burger. We were in the mud trying to see if there was anything salvageable. TV and news crews came, took photos, asked questions, and got pieces of the story to write brisk articles and it became novel to read what they wrote as they mixed up names and many details. Few really listened.
At the time, no one really understood that the water had collected in the mountains and came down in two deluges. There was much speculation about what cause such high water. People impatiently looking for something to blame and not looking with much thought.
No one could imagine the many homes were there, as there was nearly nothing showing they existed, even the empty slabs were under mud. Mike had many old cars hidden under the tall grass that he would take parts off of to fix locals cars, and now they were all on their sides in a huge pile. There were many cars tossed about that gave a hint to there might have been people living here.
It took Mike and I a long time to clean the mess up in and around his house. One group of volunteers from a church came to help for a few hours, which we were very grateful for. John and another friend finally came in with big machines and tried to make sense of the mess.
What people really need after any disaster is help cleaning up. Muscle and machine power to clear pathways and prevent health hazards. Nature can make a mess of human’s stuff in short order, yet humans take years sometimes clearing up the debris.
Times of Remembering
After some time had passed, all the neighbors who lived on Kikoo Loop gathered in the Taro Patch. We had planned a time to share our love for each other, have a meal together, talk story and catch up on families. The bond was made by nature and it is still with us today.
A psychologist wanted to join us at this gathering, and counsel us, for free, a nice gesture. Mike asked her if she had ever lived through a flood, she said “no”. He told her she could not come. She had no ‘life’ credentials to counsel us, she was clueless. We consoled each other for years after.
Ohana = Family
It was our neighbors who came to save us, and help us. The people of Anahola fed us in the aftermath, and helped us in so many ways.
The huge organizations and federal emergency lines did very little, and it was a hurtful process without much results. When disasters happen, those agencies are overburdened and under-educated due to their practice of using volunteers. They think in non-disaster terms like requiring paper proof… those people who provided proof were not really part of the deep disaster.
Many friends gave Mike money to buy new tools since all his tools got flushed down the river. He had been working a long time on a small black truck for himself, but the river took that away like a thief in the night.
People tried looking for the tools and belongings in the mud, but the churning of the water and mud made it impossible to find much of anything. Everything was spaced all around and buried. Future days our children or their children may find things like buried treasure, one at a time.
Locals helped Dinks find a home for his family. Others from this road also found new places to live. Our community gave funerals for our dead and held prayer sessions. The people of Kauai rose up to help with fundraisers via the radio. Some people organized a concert with famous Kauai resident rock stars, Hawaiian singers and local church choirs. Kauai locals embraced everyone as family and took care.
I sat in the benefit concert, with our neighbors who all chose not to sit in the front row reserved section, and tears streamed down my face. The outpouring of Love, Aloha, was forever etched in my heart.
Nine months later, Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai hard on September 11, 1992, markings its path through the middle of the island, as a category 6 hurricane. The winds got up to 200 mph in the mountains and up to 160 below. Records have now changed all those numbers for who-knows- why reasons, but I lived through that one too, and I was eight months pregnant.
Now our tiny flood felt more like a practice run. Hurricane Iniki is another story.
Kauai is full of wonderful people who take care of each other.
There are several “take-aways” from this:
- Know all your neighbors, for they may be the only ones to help. Know who has a boat or other things that might help, know where the elderly, disabled, or young children are as they need extra help. Know that your town’s people and surrounding area are your most valuable assets, tap their talents, prepare with them. Know that everyone is an asset and that when each person acts to their ability, without leadership, it may very well be the most perfect action. Kim showed us that as he just went in to action that really helped us all. We did not have anyone saying “we should all do this or that”, people just do their spontaneous best.
- People matter more than anything else in the whole wide world. Period. Forget the “stuff”, as people might still be alive if they just left the stuff. Hesitation when your gut feeling says run leads to trouble. Andy’s guitar was not worth his life.
- Disasters happen, and when they do they will shift the complacency out of you and clear your head. All feuds and differences between people disappear instantly. Our innate instincts can take charge and be a force that helps everyone. Work in harmony and get to safety.
- Connect with nature, listen, watch, learn from what other earth inhabitants are saying, doing, signalling, for there are many signs when natural things are about to happen. Bird patterns, changes in animal and insect behaviors, even our pets will alert us something is about to take place. Our own intuition is great guidance when listened to. Study nature.
- Thoughts and words matter deeply; I had been witnessing the ‘creation’ of this deluge through thoughts, words and emotions months prior to the actual flood, which at the time, I had no idea they would create THAT!. It was when the flood was raging, just as we were stuck in the dark house, that I heard a mans somber laughing, saying he had no idea ‘it’ would be this big. His name was Teddy; a Hawaiian spirit observing. Then the whole process of the creation of this flood became so evident. That is yet another story. Thoughtforms had manifested and in a rage. I will keep ‘creation of the flood’ private for now out of respect for those involved. None of them are aware that their thoughtforms built that deadly night for all. It cost everyone involved more than they would have ever imagined. Thoughts plus emotions manifest in to matter and circumstance. This creation had many thoughts from many people all around a certain issue.
People may need to learn through disasters. Disasters may be the consciousness shifting process they need. Humans tend to become complacent when they are comfortable and forget humanity for others. They get occupied in material things and protecting the dead objects rather than people.
Do not pity those in disasters, just be a good neighbor and help each other. People need help and emotional support through clean up action.
Human minds can get all twisted up and sometimes some water, wind, fire, or earth-shaking will sort things out.
Humanity has their priorities all twisted at present. So disasters will continue to happen.
Go in peace and compassion.
~ Carolyn Thompson
Copyright © 2015-2025 Carolyn Thompson; All rights reserved. This is a true account of what happen and all the names are of actual people. Love One Another!
Bless all the people in the path of hurricane Harvey and may all your needs be met! ~ct