Kaua’i slammed again; should let up this weekend

Heavy rains over the last two days temporarily shut down the Hanalei Bridge — closing access to Hanalei town for a time — caused electrical blackouts, and flooded roads across the island making driving hazardous.

In one incident, rocks on a hillside loosened and fell on a vehicle on Ko Road in Hanapepe Thursday night.

The single occupant in the vehicle, a man, had to be extricated, and was sent to the Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital on Waimea for treatment.

The man, who was not identified, was not seriously injured, officials said.

The storm drenched the island Thursday and for a time on Friday, but began breaking up mid-day yesterday, Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service on O’ahu, told The Garden Island.

Still, residents should brace for continued rains Saturday, although the rains will not be as heavy, Kodama said.

“Things are starting to stabilize, but Kaua’i is still not completely out of the woods yet,” Kodama said. “You can still get some heavy rains, and since the grounds are saturated, we can get flooding.”

The storm drenched O’ahu Wednesday and then blanketed most of Kaua’i as well with rain Thursday, he said.

Because of heavy rains in the mountains, a flashflood warning was issued for Kaua’i on Thursday that continued into Friday.

With rain diminishing by Friday in East Kaua’i and elsewhere on the island, the National Weather Service initially canceled the warning at 1:16 p.m. Friday, Kodama said.

The warning was posted again at 5:30 p.m., however, when radar showed heavy rain moving northwest along a line from Na Pali Coast to Kipu. The rain was expected to bring heavy showers to the central part of the island for a prolonged period. The flashflood warning was in effect until at least 8:30 p.m. Friday.

A flashflood warning means that dangerous flooding is occurring or is imminent. A flash-flood watch means that the potential for flooding exists.

By Sunday, more residents may be reaching for their sun-glasses.

“We might see some sun Sunday … It will be partly cloudy, some staggered showers,” Kodama said.

Still, residents statewide will probably be reaching for their raincoats and umbrellas late next week, when another storm passes over the state, again from the west, Kodama said.

Yesterday morning, Kaua’i police officers closed a state highway leading to the Hanalei Bridge when waters in the Hanalei River rose to unsafe levels, according to a spokes-person with the Kaua’i County

The officers closed the two-lane Kuhio Highway at 7:15 a.m. Friday, shutting down traffic in and out of Hanalei Town.

A county official said she was not aware of any stranding of motorists on the road, noting that “if they (motorists) missed the road closure, they just had to stay where they were.”

In a news release, Assistant Police Chief Clayton Arinaga said two officers had been posted in Hanalei town in case of flooding.

“Hanalei Bridge is always a major concern during heavy rains,” said Mark Marshall, the Kaua’i County Civil Defense Administrator, in the release. “Whenever the water reaches a certain level there, it needs to be closed.”

The closure of the roads to the bridge was announced on local radio stations.

When the river water sub-sided, police opened one of the two lanes to the bridge at 11:05 a.m. Friday, allowing people to get in and out of Hanalei town, Wainiha, and Ha’ena.

Those wanting to find out about the conditions of roads and bridges during storms can call 241-1725.

Dangerous driving conditions developed on the Kalihiwai Bridge in Kilauea when ponding covered portions of the state-managed structure.

Water also covered parts of Kaumuali’i Highway in Kalaheo in South Kaua’i, creating potentially dangerous driving conditions.

During the storm, power outages were reported in Lawai, Po’ipu, Kalaheo, Koloa and Lihu’e and at Princeville.

County and state agencies stood ready to take on any emergencies arising from the storm, Mayor Bryan Baptiste told reporters in a meeting on Friday in his office at the Lihu’e Civic Center.

County and state officials met Thursday afternoon for an update on the storm, he said.

A video teleconference hosted by officials with state Civil Defense and the National Weather Service was held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, and an open exchange took place between first responders around the islands, Baptiste said.

“Whenever we have a flash flood warning, a VTC is held so emergency personnel have the opportunity to get the latest information on weather conditions and ask pertinent questions,” Marshall said in the news release.

“On a local level, it also gives us a chance to share what’s going on in our respective areas of responsibility so we have a sense of the bigger picture and can be better prepared,” he added.

County work crews have been clearing culverts and cleaning up debris since before the last heavy rains hit Kaua’i last week, Ryan Nishikawa, chief of the county’s Department of Public Works’ Roads and Maintenance Division, said in the news release.

Baptiste said work crews with the Public Works Department have their hands full.

While tending to situations that have arisen from the latest storm, they are preparing to build a new bridge over the Moloa’a Stream, replacing one that had been swept away during a heavy storm in February.

“The (Kaua’i County) base-yard people are trying to react to things that are happening, and we will get to that bridge,” Baptiste said. “I got to tip my hats off to them, they are working hard and as quickly as they can.”

Steve Kyono, district engineer for the state Department of Transportation Highways Division, said no rock slides or flooding had occurred on state highways as of noon Friday. The slide that occurred on Ko Road was a county road.

Kyono said his staff is on standby in case an emergency arises.

Wayne Souza, district super-intendent for the Division of State Parks on Kaua’i, reported that no camping permits have been issued for Na Pali and Polihale state parks over the last two weeks, except for Tuesday when day-use permits were given out for hikes on the Kalalau Trail up to Hanakoa Valley.

He said that four camping permits covering this time period were issued previously before the inclement weather was forecasted.

“Given the weather conditions, we’re hoping the campers already came out. If not, they should just stay put and wait it out,” said Souza. “That’s the advice we give them in our Kalalau Trail brochure.”

Alfred Darling, executive director of the Kauai Chapter of the American Red Cross, said residents should be prepared to wait out storms with the proper provisions, if necessary.

“We always tell people that they should be prepared in case anything should happen and have a 72-hour disaster preparedness kit at all times,” Darling said in the news release.

At a minimum, the emergency kit should contain a three-day supply of non-perishable foods, three quarts of water per person per day, extra prescription medicines, portable radio, flashlight and extra batteries and a first aid kit, Darling said.

Marshall also encouraged everyone to report any flooding and other weather-related conditions to the Kaua’i Police Department Dispatch section at 241-1711 or Civil Defense officials at 241-1800.

  • Lester Chang, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@ kauaipubco.com.

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