When heavy rains hit the islands, surrounding waters can turn from tropical aqua blue to Mississippi brown in several hours. It may not be the color of choice for visitors, or anyone for that matter, which is why the state often issues Brown Water Advisories to prevent people from going into storm water runoff. This recent storm has hit O‘ahu and Kaua‘i the hardest, putting them at such advisory level.
Koko Marina waters on O‘ahu's east side looking pretty murky.
What makes brown so bad? The state Department of Health points out that it's likely the water has waste from overflowed cesspools or sewer manholes, pesticides, dead animals, animal fecal matter, chemicals and other debris associated with floods. In other words, it's best to stay out, or you'll risk getting really sick, especially if you have an open wound or swallow affected waters.
Even if waters manage to keep their aqua blue shade, the public should refrain from jumping in, as bacteria and debris may still be present. If you're in doubt, then rely on your nose; it never lies. All that trash can smell really bad. Also, these contaminated waters are usually caused by flash floods, so don't plan on taking that kayak trip up the river or even going near anything resembling a stream or a low-lying area. The serene, trickling brook you saw yesterday could be a torrential deluge of mud and tree stumps the next. Flash floods can create dangerous currents or a surge of water running downstream.
I usually wait several days after the Brown Water Advisory has been lifted before even thinking about dipping in a toe or two. Why risk it? Instead, find something else fun to do on a rainy day in Hawai‘i. If the roads are completely flooded and therefore closed, like they have been on parts of Kaua‘i, then wait out the storm indoors.
You'd not only risk your health when going into the waters on a rainy day, but you're life. With heavy rains, comes even heavier thunder and lighting. I'm sure I don't have to connect the dots for you on this one.
To find out which areas have sewage spills or Brown Water Advisories, visit: www.hawaii.gov/doh/waterquality.
Photo Credit: Bruce Fisher
March 6th, 2012