day after New Year's should've been busy for the Honolulu Zoo, offering some welcome
relief after the typically slow fall months. Zoo director Ken Redman anticipated
about 2,000 people on Jan. 2. Only 160 showed up, thanks to the unusually heavy
rains that drenched Honolulu-and most of Hawai'i-during the holiday season.|
"A good portion of the zoo was flooded that day, and we even went half-price with admissions," Redman says. "There was much less business than we'd expected so there was a huge impact on revenues."
The holidays were also a washout for many businesses. On much of O'ahu, well over a month's worth of rain fell in just a week. A Dec. 7 downpour stuck areas such as Moanalua and Mililani with more than 8 inches of rain, closing roads, flooding homes and causing power outages. A few weeks later, many areas got more of the same. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 4, downtown Honolulu saw more than 8 inches of rain, Hawai'i Kai got more than 9 inches and Kailua saw close to 14 inches.
Some news stories seemed to focus on the bright side of the craptacular weather. "Rain restores lush scenery," announced a Jan. 5 headline from The Honolulu Advertiser. Weather conditions had turned even the driest landscapes into real-life travel brochures-verdant mountainsides, gushing waterfalls and all. The rains also eased some concerns over drought conditions and even helped made this New Year's one of the safest yet.
But many businesses, namely those who cater to tourists, weren't celebrating. With a strong winter tourist season just kicking off, these businesses had hoped to cash in. Instead, many wound up bailing water, re-landscaping and counting their losses.
"I've heard from Waikïkï businesses that they definitely saw lower revenues because of the heavy rains," says Rick Egged, executive director of Waikïkï Improvement Association. "We rely a lot on pedestrian traffic, and when the weather's bad, people aren't out."
The outdoor dining section of Tiki's Grill & Bar usually offers a great view of Waikïkï Beach and Kaläkaua Avenue. The weekend after New Year's, the restaurant had to close off that area, or about a third of its seats, says general manager Bill Tobin.
Other visitor-dependent businesses didn't fare much better. Atlantis Adventures canceled two day of submarine tours, due to rough seas. Farther east, the Kähala Mandarin Oriental closed its popular Cabanas Seaside Grill.
Few businesses had it rougher than O'ahu's golf courses. Rains transformed the links at the Honolulu Country Club into a virtual archipelago. In Kailua, Luana Hills shut down for about eight days in December, says director of golf Darin Sumimoto.
He says, "The course is designed for drainage, so there wasn't any damage. But we usually get about 100 golfers a day, so this was huge for us." A round of golf at Luana costs $120 for visitors and $49 for kama'äina.
As we went to press, Greg Nichols, general manager at the Ko Olina Golf Club, says his staff was still getting the course back to normal. "A lot of the bunkers got washed out, so we had to replenish the sand, and there were areas where we couldn't cut grass for a while, so it was really maintenance-heavy," Nichols says. "None of the golf courses got spared.