Nearly 2 months after historic floods, recovery on Kauai has just begun

Nearly 2 months after historic floods, recovery on Kauai has just begun
Updated: Jun. 6, 2018 at 5:27 PM HST
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LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Much of the state's attention is focused on eruptions on the Big Island.

But on Kauai, flood recovery efforts continue from Haena to Koloa more than a month and a half after devastating floods.

Some highways are still closed, and homes are still under repair.

On Wednesday, the Kauai County Council approved an emergency ordinance to help residents whose homes were damaged by flooding.

And that help is much-needed.

Some 532 homes were damaged or destroyed in the historic rains that swamped Oahu and Kauai between April 13 and 16.

All these weeks later, residents of Wainiha and Haena, as well as workers with county-approved passes, wait in line in their cars to be escorted convey-style into the communities.

Along the route, open from 6 a.m. Monday through Saturday, the convoy slowly passes areas where landslides have been cleared and crews are working to stabilize and repair the damaged highway.

The line of cars eventually makes its way to Wainiha, where another convoy waits it turn for the drive to Hanalei.

"There's a lot of people that feel trapped, but I don't," said Iwalani Hoomanawanui, who lives in Wainiha.

Hoomanawanui says she understands the scheduled drive times are necessary.

"The importance of it is to allow the construction crew to be working as much as they can to get the road open safely for us," she said.

Volunteers with international relief organization Samaritan's Purse are still on Kauai providing flood victims with free labor like debris and dry wall removal and home repairs.

"We have about 50 open work orders," said Shannon Daley, program manager for Samaritan's Purse. "Those range between the clean-up and the repair jobs. But we are still taking active work orders, still having people call every day with something else that they need."

Because the food bank had to move its resources out of the YMCA's Camp Naue, a pop-up general store was created on Belinda Chandler's front lawn last week. Aunty B's shop has everything from fresh produce and canned goods to toilet paper and cleaning supplies — all for free.

She says many of her neighbors lost their jobs because they needed to focus on fixing their homes first.

"They were left with the ultimatum of if you don't come. you don't have a job," said Belinda Chandler, of Wainiha. "They're all left in tears. They just can't believe they can still come and get food and take it home."

To help speed up repairs, the county council approved an emergency ordinance Wednesday to expedite the building permit application process and waive fees. It does not apply to vacation rentals or commercial properties.

"It's for the homeowner, or in the case of long-term rentals, to get tenants back into the home," said Kauai Council Chairman Mel Rapozo. "And not to expand your property or improve your property, but to take care of the damages so you can move back in

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