Donated goods en route to Kauai as rescue crews, communities aid in recovery

Amid ongoing rescue efforts, Kauai works to assess scope of disaster
Published: Apr. 15, 2018 at 1:36 AM HST|Updated: Apr. 17, 2018 at 9:36 PM HST
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(Image: Kresta Kay/Facebook)
(Image: Kresta Kay/Facebook)
(Image: DLNR)
(Image: DLNR)
(Image: Noah Hamilton)
(Image: Noah Hamilton)

WAINIHA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Evacuation and relief efforts continued Tuesday across several Kauai communities that have been devastated by severe flooding.

Less than a day after 340 people were reported to have been rescued, first responders with the U.S. Army National Guard and County of Kauai spent most of Tuesday airlifting 125 additional residents from the Ha'ena and Wainiha areas.

At the Princeville Airport, volunteers and fire crews helped move large loads of community donations onto military and county helicopters. Palettes of water, canned goods, toilet paper, even blankets and clothes are all headed to people stranded on Kauai's North Shore.

At the landing zone in Wainiha, teams helped unload the supplies from the aircraft as residents and visitors waited in line nearby to be evacuated out of the area.

County officials say landslides that continue to block Kuhio Highway make it impossible to predict when they might be able to return home. Many were anxious to leave ahead of the next round of severe weather, saying they were afraid of the damage it will do to the already ravaged area.

As crews continue to rescue some residents and deliver supplies to others, Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho says it's still much too early to estimate the extent of the devastation.

Early eyewitness accounts, though, put the number of homes and business that have sustained serious damage or been destroyed in the "dozens."

"We have an assessment team on the ground, boots on the ground," Carvalho told Hawaii News Now on Tuesday. "We are already bringing supplies. We're already bringing equipment to help support that part of the island. My concern is of course for our keiki and kupuna as well."

At the Princeville Airport, volunteers and fire crews helped move large loads of community donations onto military and county helicopters. Palettes of water, canned goods and toilet paper, all headed to people stranded along Kauai's North Shore and available at central pick-up locations.

In addition to getting help to those who need it, authorities — and residents — spent Tuesday trying to better understand the scope of the damage. The universal assessment: They'd never seen anything like this before.

"I've lived here all my life and this storm was pretty gnarly," said resident Kevin Kaleiohi.

Hanalei resident Flora Quick said she was rescued from her roof by someone on a Jet Ski. The heavy rain flooded her property so quickly she was forced to go somewhere higher.

"When the water come in, it just only takes a few seconds," she said. "That's when I decided, OK, I'm going to climb up."

She said the water rushing around her house was so powerful her home began to move. "I can feel that the house is shaking. If the house will shake enough to slide then that's the end of it," she said.

Parts of the island saw more than 2 feet of rain in a single day, shattering previous records.

In Hanalei, a rain gauge measured 28.15 inches of rain over the 24-hour period that ended at 2 a.m. Sunday, and then the gauge stopped working.

And in the 48 hours ending April 15 at 6 p.m., Wainiha got 32 inches of rain. That's more than Mount Waialeale — the wettest place on Earth — which got 22 inches.

"This is unprecedented," said John Bravender, state warning coordination meteorologist.

A flash flood warning for Kauai finally expired about 1:45 a.m. Monday after two days of torrential rains.

"I've lived here all my life and this is one of the most serious situations on Kauai," Carvalho told Hawaii News Now. "Things are just terrible. What we're really focusing on right now is search and rescue ... and a thorough damage assessment."

Authorities did celebrate a win Monday: Kuhio Highway near the Hanalei Bridge was reopened following repairs, allowing much-needed supplies to get into the community and those trapped since the rain started Sunday to get out.

Once the thoroughfare reopened, 121 people staying at a shelter in Hanalei were taken back to Princeville.

Carvalho and Gov. David Ige have signed emergency proclamations in the wake of the severe flooding, allowing government departments to work more quickly and nimbly to respond to needs.

Ige, who took an aerial tour of flood-ravaged communities, told reporters Monday that the damage to Kauai's north shore is "very extensive."

He said two Black Hawk helicopters have been deployed to send food, water and medical supplies to affected communities, and road access in flood-ravaged communities remains "very limited."


After the floods, Hanalei pier was also left unrecognizable: The road is gone, cars and trucks were tossed into the water, and telephone poles, wires and trees were all over the ground.

Crews with the National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard, Kauai County's fire and police departments and the Red Cross are all pitching in to bring in more supplies and to ferry out residents who want to evacuate.

There were also countless good Samaritans Monday looking for ways to help.

"Kauai, we get heart, you know?" Kaleiohi said. "People over here get heart and we always help out each other."

Big wave surfer Laird Hamilton and his friends used boats, paddleboards, and Jet Skis on Monday to help shuttle people and cases of water and food from place to place along the Hanalei River and bay.

"It's hard to conceive that that much water can come from the sky. I mean, it was like an ocean back there," Hamilton said.

Carvalho acknowledged Monday that it will be a "long road to recovery" for the island.

Some good news: Power has been restored to some customers in Hanalei, while outages continue for Wainiha and Haena.

And state Department of Transportation crews were able to begin work clearing the first of eight landslides on Kuhio Highway. As crews work to clear mud and debris, utility workers are making repairs on fallen utility poles.

Emergency shelters are open at Koloa Elementary School, Hanalei Elementary School and the Church of the Pacific in Princeville. About 61 people stayed at the Hanalei shelter on Sunday night. A boat brought in 21 of them.

At one point Sunday night, the shelter ran out of food and water. But an ambulance was able to deliver the supplies.

Hanalei Elementary School is closed until further notice, county officials said.

The floodwaters have also affected water supplies.

As a precautionary, residents in Wainiha and Haena are being asked not to drink or cook with tap water until further notice. Residents are also being asked to conserve water until service can be fully restored.

Officials are asking affected customers to collect rain water to use for non-drinking purposes until services are restored.

[To view a slideshow of the damage, click here.]

This story may be updated.

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