Officials estimate it could take 3 months for Kauai’s Kuhio Highway to fully reopen

Updated: Mar. 12, 2021 at 5:00 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Under a “best case scenario,” officials estimate it could take three months for Kuhio Highway to reopen following a landslide that cut off Kauai’s north shore.

In the meantime, state Deputy Director for Highways Ed Sniffen said crews may be able to partially reopen the major thoroughfare Tuesday.

“Once we start moving debris, we have to assess whether the road is safe and whether the slopes can be stable as they are,” Sniffen said. “If they can be, we’re gonna push to try and open by next Tuesday.”

The landslide was reported Thursday morning and state Transportation Department crews have spent the day trying to come up with a plan of attack for dealing with it.

Sniffen said debris was still shifting Thursday, but there’s hope it will settle so clean-up work can begin.

But all that will reopen is a single, emergency-only access lane.

“Best case, there’s gonna be at least five days that that community’s gonna be cut off.”

Meanwhile, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative warned residents unable to leave because of the landslide to prepare for extended outages if the power goes out.

“We’re working on contingency plans to be able to get our trucks to these areas if there are outages, however it will be challenging,” said KIUC Chief of Operations Brad Rockwell.

Kauai Mayor Derek Kawakami said the landslide is especially tough for communities that have been isolated before by extended highway closures.

In 2018, several large landslides that happened during historic rains also blocked access to north shore communities. The storm also left hundreds of homes damaged or destroyed.

“Our North Shore community has been through so much over the years, and again they are called to overcome a great challenge with many unknowns at this time,” he said.

“We want to assure our residents and visitors that we will get through this together.”

Lyndsey Haraguchi-Nakayama, of Hanalei Taro, called the scale of the latest landslide “indescribable.”

“When you see it from the farm point of view, you see it looks like a huge section of the mountain just came down. It really is quite dangerous,” she said.

“It’s like having a whole section of the island not being able to come in and out .... so right now everybody is kind of hunkering down. Depending on how long this goes on, this would be concerning.”

This story will be updated.

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