Crews work tirelessly to prevent repeat of historic Iao Valley flooding

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Both before and after Olivia made landfall on Maui Wednesday, mud and rocks came down off hillsides while rivers rose and raged.

That included Iao Valley where, early on, the road was closed before Kepaniwai Bridge.

KHON2 was escorted past the road block with Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa and Herman Andaya, Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator.

“The residents had reported that the stream, the river was flowing very heavy, so what we’re looking at now, they say it’s about two or three times that amount of water was coming down earlier this morning. That is enough for us to be able to be very concerned, because in the past, we’ve had this entire area flood out and take out large chunks of property and literally isolate residents on top of buildings as the river went through their homes,” Arakawa said. “We are coming up here, we’re checking, we’re making sure we are taking precautions that are necessary. As you can see, there are landslides that occurred in a number of different places, and rocks are on the road, so it’s not safe for people to be driving through because at any time, we could have landslides.”

The area is no stranger to the damage those waters can cause. It was two years ago Thursday that the historic Iao Valley flood hit, causing millions of dollars in damage to city infrastructure alone, the cost to widen the river, to put in safety measures, not to mention the cost to private property.

The county was out early Wednesday, cleaning all of those streams and drains.

“It has been an ongoing effort. We’ve been doing it now for the last several weeks or so,” Andaya said. “Going out and cleaning out culverts and in this case the drainage that was happening. Whenever we see there is a potential problem, we try to lean forward, be proactive and we’re out here cleaning drains so that we can prevent flooding and whatnot.”

The storm did bring about at least one welcome sight: epic waterfalls streaming from the top of Iao Valley. It was something even Arakawa, who has lived on Maui his entire life, admits he doesn’t get to see very often.

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