Tuesday, February 21, 2023

It's not just rivers of *lava* in Hawaii

It's been rainy and overcast most of the past few weeks, but this past weekend especially we've been going through a significant storm here in the islands. Apparently Hilo got over 11 inches/ 26.5 cm of rain on Saturday, and while that was the most in a single day we also got plenty both before and after. It's episodic rather than steady rain, however, so on Monday I took advantage of a break in the rain to see what Waiale Falls looked like with this much water.

The answer turned out to be “phenomenal.” I saw it as I crossed the bridge to park, but the falls' true fury stuck me as I walked back onto the bridge for a better look. A torrent of water poured over the falls, roiling and churning a foamy brown as it passed beneath the bridge under my feet. A ponderous roar filled my ears, and I had to shade my eyes against a cloud of mists fitfully blowing over me from the direction of the falls. It felt like the ground itself was shaking beneath the cascade of water rushing towards the sea (and not just while I was standing on the bridge!).

A shot of two waterfalls as a torrent water passes over them.
Waiale Falls, Wailuku River. A flow rate of ~1000 cubic feet per second.

Quickly moving out of the billowing spray, I got my drone in the air and surveyed the river from above. The sight of the churning waves of water was mesmerizing, but, not knowing how long I had before the rain returned, I took a few photos and got a video flying up the river. A good thing, too, as I can't have been in the air for more than ten minutes before I felt the first drops of returning rain and had to quickly land.

With the footage in hand, I looked back through my files and found a similar video I'd taken all the way back in June when I first got my drone, when the river was running near its lowest ebb. I've wanted to be able to compare the river between low and high flow states for months now, so I put together the following video showing the dramatic difference. The name Wailuku comes from “wai,” meaning “water,” and “luku,” meaning “destruction,” and while you might wonder about the name seeing the river when it's low, this video should amply demonstrate where it comes from.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the video, and if you get the chance, definitely check out the Wailuku (from a safe distance!) while it's full. It's quite the unforgettable experience. A hui hou!

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