Waita worries those downstream

Late yesterday afternoon, Waita Reservoir in Koloa was one to two inches closer to capacity than it was the day before.

“Right now the spillway is wide open,” said senior vice president of Grove Farm, Allan Smith. “It (the spillway) is overflowing at a depth of nine inches.”

The reservoir, on Grove Farm property, was not at maximum capacity, but Civil Defense officials were taking no chances by opening the spillway full blast. “The spillway is 55 feet wide,” said Grove Farm spokesperson Marissa Sandblom. “It is not a little trickle we are letting out.”

The last time the spillway was completely opened was 10 years ago. “It was a heavy-rain event that required the opening,” said Smith.

The 424-acre reservoir had a depth measurement of 21 feet, 9 inches at 4 p.m. yesterday.

“The situation is pretty well under control,” Smith said. “But we need the rain to stop.”

Civil Defense and the Kaua’i Fire Department officials were on site, monitoring the reservoir closely. “We get more water with more rain, and that means more saturation,” Smith said.

“As time goes by, without the rain letting up, it gets more intense and more serious. But, as it stands right now, it is OK, and it is stable.”

Koloa town sits directly below the earthen dam that holds back the Waita Reservoir.

“I am scared,” said Cora Balocan, who lives behind the First Hawaiian Bank on Wailani Road in Koloa. “The police are evacuating people from some of the homes near the bank,” said Balocan.

County officials announced by early yesterday evening that Waikomo Stream was spilling over its banks, and residents in certain areas of Koloa were receiving evacuation-request notifications in the areas of Aloha Place, Kapau, Knudsen, Mission, Wailaau and Wailani roads.

Hawaii Army National Guard personnel had two trucks stationed at the intersection of Wailaau Road and Ala Kinoiki (the Koloa bypass road) to transport voluntary evacuees to the Kalaheo Neighborhood Center.

Two Koloa businesses, Crazy Shirts and Koloa Natural Foods, had been evacuated earlier as a precautionary measure by police.

Hawaii Air National Guards-men were stationed by Waikomo Stream to monitor water levels, while others were on standby with five-ton trucks to assist motorists in stranded cars.

“There is some visible flooding along some of the roads,” said Sandblom of Grove Farm.

“I know both bridges on Wailaau are under water,” said Peter Tennberg, who lives on Waihohonou Street.

A stream runs through Tennberg’s property that feeds into the Waikomo Stream. The Waikomo Stream was causing the flooding problems due to the reservoir release and other run-off that feeds into it.

Some of the runoff from the Waita Reservoir flows into Tennberg’s stream before feeding into Waikomo Stream. “My stream is flowing,” said Tennberg. “As long as it is flowing, I’m OK. If the Waikomo starts to back up, then I will be in trouble.”

Tennberg said that he is not concerned, and has not been asked to evacuate his home.

The Waikomo Stream at Sueoka Store on Koloa Road was about a foot below its banks late yesterday. “We are right next to the Waikomo Stream, and it has been rising up and up and up,” said Sueoka Store office manager Wendy Kawaguchi. “We can hear the stream in the store.”

Kawaguchi said they are more than aware that the Waita Reservoir sits upstream from them. “We’ve always known the reservoir was up there,” she said.

“I never thought it could flood because they always say they let the water out, but what happened this week (in Kilauea) makes you think.”

Business was about normal yesterday at the store. “The tourists have nothing to do because of the weather, so they come out and buy stuff that they can eat in their hotel rooms,” Kawaguchi said.

“A lot of the locals have been staying at home. A lot of my regular customers who live near the stream (Waikomo) have been asked voluntarily to leave (their homes).”

Sue Kunimura has not left her house for three days. She lives on Tapa Street. “This is awful. I haven’t been out of my house since the rain started,” Kunimura said. “I went through ‘Iniki, but even during ‘Iniki it did not rain this much.”

She says she is not worried about the reservoir because officials constantly reassure residents that levels are being checked, and the situation monitored. “I’ve just been told not to take my car out because the roads are all flooding,” Kunimura said.

Employees at the Poipu Beach Resort Association offices in the Sheraton Kauai Resort off Ho’onani Road closed up shop at 11:30 a.m. yesterday.

“The Sheraton had flooding on the ground levels. They had to drain their garden pool,” said PBRA office assistant Jamilee Carter.

Employees left by their own choice, said Carter. “Koloa Road is impassable. The Tunnel of Trees road is closed down low. The heavy flooding on local roads was the main reason (we closed for the day),” Carter said.

Down the way at Brennecke’s Beach Broiler, it was business as usual, at least for a little while. “We are closing early for the safety of our customers and our employees,” said Brennecke’s employee Ed Guerrero.

The restaurant closed at 4 p.m. “Usually we close at 10 o’clock at night,” said Guerrero.

Brennecke’s has not closed early due to weather since Hurricane ‘Iniki hit in 1992. “We had to close for the hurricane,” Guerrero said.

A portion of Ho’one Road near the restaurant was closed to traffic due to flooding. The nearby parking area was a beautiful lake, Guerrero said. “We have not named it yet, though,” he said.

The ocean in front of Brennecke’s was brown early in the day, but started to clear a little by late afternoon.

“We’ve actually observed some tourists out enjoying the beach. They have rain jackets on and tell us ‘It’s just rain,'” Guerrero said. “It’s not like it’s snow or something.”

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