The rains were historic. One year later, Kauai is still trying to recover

The rains were historic. One year later, Kauai is still trying to recover

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Exactly one year after unprecedented rains triggered widespread flooding on Kauai, things are far from back to normal.

In the disaster ― later confirmed as the single-biggest rain event in U.S. history ― homes were destroyed and damaged from Haena to Koloa. Landslides forced the closure of Kuhio Highway.

(Image: Hawaii Department of Transportation)
(Image: Hawaii Department of Transportation)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

And lives were turned upside down.

Wainiha resident Bea Chandler said she’ll never forget the night that brought 50 inches of rain.

“There was nowhere to run, where you going run?” she said.

She said she remembers watching the water level around her Wainiha home rise and rise ― while the rain showed no signs of stopping.

“We’ve had lots of floods, but not like this,” she said. “The stop sign was underwater for almost one month. The water just sat here, just sat here. It was unbelievable.”

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Laura Richards, general manager of the Hanalei Colony Resort, says she didn’t realize how bad the storm was until she went downstairs to her garage during a power outage.

[Read more: That time Kauai got more than 4 feet of rain? It’s now a new national rainfall record]

“As I was walking down the stairs, I walked into water up to my neck and that was very frightening,” Richards said.

The resort served as a central command center for months after the flood, while providing shelter for flood victims, first responders, and volunteers.

Richards says the property is still being fixed up ― they also had a big fire in July ― and she says they most likely won’t reopen until some time next year.

“So that’s my reality today,” she said. “I’m having a hard time waking up going I’m a resort manager, I’m in the hospitality business, and I’m looking at close to another year before really seeing the world of hospitality opening up back at the resort.”

New Mayor Derek Kawakami inherited the recovery efforts and says there are a number of projects near completion.

He says long-term, the county is looking at hiring a global consultant to look at Kauai’s flood-prone communities and how they can better plan their infrastructure.

“What it did it was a wake-up call on many different fronts as far as disaster preparedness, climate change, how we plan communities,” he said.

Kawakami says they’re hoping to reopen Black Pot Beach Park by the summer. The state has also announced its planning to reopen Kuhio Highway on May 1.

In the meantime, the escorted convoy system is still in place for residents of Wainiha and Haena.

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