First-hand look at extensive flood damage, rescue efforts on Kauai


Kauai residents and rescue crews were busy Monday dealing with the aftermath of this weekend’s devastating rain and flooding.

“We want to tell our people, we’re working very hard to get out as soon as possible. We haven’t been able to get boots on the ground and actually do a thorough assessment, but today is the day,” said Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

“The reason for that is not because we didn’t want to. It’s because of devastating landslides that have happened along the entire roadway,” he continued. “There’s eight-plus landslides, so that didn’t allow us to get in, but for today, our big, big effort is to do a thorough assessment, to get in there, to evacuation plan, look at our kupuna, our keiki, our medically challenged people, and get water and food. Those are the things we’re working on right now.”

State parks closed, campers stranded

There were roughly 30 campers stranded in the Kalalau section of the Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said. Efforts are underway to contact people who have camping permits to check on their status or to determine whether they made it out of the park safely.

DLNR Division of State Parks closed the following Garden Island parks Monday:  Napali Coast State Wilderness Park, Haena State Park, Polihale State Park, and portions of Wailua River State Park. Napali Coast and Haena state parks will likely remain closed indefinitely due to extensive damage caused to the road leading into both parks.

Officials are coordinating with Kauai County and Hawaii Emergency Management Agency personnel on prioritizing reconnaissance missions. All available helicopters on Kauai are being managed based on immediate safety concerns.

Extensive damage in Hanalei

Our crew caught a ride with a family heading into Hanalei to help residents in the area. KHON2 saw homes near Hanalei Pier that were severely damaged.

One homeowner said he was distraught by the extent of damage to his home, and needed some time to figure out what to do next.

Massive chunks of grass had also caved in, and trees were uprooted. Some roads in the area were also completely destroyed.

“It was the worst we’ve ever gone through,” said Hanalei resident Patsy Sheehan. “Some of the houses, you could hear them crack yesterday as they, finally the sand gave way and the house, the concrete just gave way. That was really excruciating to listen to. The houses break apart. They’re kind of like people after a while, you get to know them. We know whose houses they are, and it’s very sad. Yeah, very sad.”

Kuhio Highway and other road closures

Our crew next headed along Kuhio Highway toward Wainiha, where a number of people were reportedly stranded.

Crews were actively clearing the road for emergency responders to gain access.

“This is going to be a long, long process here. You’re talking about homes. You’re talking about families. You’re talking about roadways. You’re talking about a whole roadway that was washed out in Kalihiwai, and people live on the opposite side, so it’ll going to take diligence, effort, partnership, collaboration, coordination, cooperation, all of it to ensure we can take care of people first, come back with a solid assessment and rebuild as soon as we can,” Carvalho said.

The following road closures remained in effect Monday:

  • Kuhio Highway, in the vicinity of the Hanalei Bridge, until the bridge can be inspected and deemed safe;
  • Weke Road in the vicinity of Black Pot Beach due to a sinkhole;
  • Severe erosion closed the mauka portion of Kahiliholo Road at Kalihiwai Ridge;
  • Kuhio Highway, between Waikoko and Wainiha, due to multiple landslides;
  • Hanalei Plantation Road in Princeville due to a sinkhole.

The south-bound lane of Kuhio Highway has been reopened on Wailua Bridge.

Community comes together

Amid the devastation, one thing is clear: the community is banding together in this time of crisis.

Princeville resident Kaua Hermosura boards at Kamehameha Schools, but floodwaters prevented him from making his flight to Oahu.

Instead, he spent the day helping his dad, moving supplies to those in need.

“It’s been pretty crazy trying to get people in and out of Hanalei and supplies, because there’s no water and no electricity. The telephone lines are down and people really need water,” Hermosura said. “We’ve had to cross through mud and water, and bison running around everywhere and trying to avoid them, and still trying to keep people safe from not going toward the water again, like yesterday, because it just started rising and people were going closer and closer.”

“We have a couple people that came over, because they were just with a backpack. Their car was completely flooded. Their things were in the house, and the house broke in half so they couldn’t get anything out. Everybody was just helping each other as much as we can,” Sheehan said.

Pua and Clemente Kaneholani loaded their truck with bottled water Monday morning and handed them out to those in need.

“My husband’s cousin, who’s Jason Momoa, everyone knows him as Aquaman, but he’s the one who donated three pallets of water, so that’s why we’re here donating water to every family that needs some,” said Pua Kaneholani. “We’re actually going to go around Hanalei right now to see if any family needs that can take out to Haena or however else it can get transported.”

American Red Cross response

On Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard and Kauai Fire Department had planned to airlift 61 shelter evacuees to a Red Cross shelter at Church of the Pacific in Princeville, but helicopters were grounded because of thunderstorms.

At around noon Monday, the flood water receded enough for the county to bus them to a Red Cross shelter at Kilauea Gym. Due to a water outage, they could no longer go to Church of the Pacific.

About 10 residents from Wainiha were airlifted to Princeville Airport, where a county bus took them to Kilauea Gym.

“It’s really sad seeing everyone and everything that needs help but we can’t really get it right now at this moment, but we’re trying our hardest and everything,” Hermosura said. “It’s my community. It’s where I grew up, what I’ve known my whole life, and it’s raised me and helped me to get where I am, and all people in the valleys and everywhere is my family, and my dad’s just trying to help everyone out and doing as much as we can.”

The American Red Cross deployed four volunteers from Oahu to Kauai to help with sheltering and support for mental health, health, and government relations.

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