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Island History for Friday, July 1, 2011

At noon on Friday, Nov. 14, 1947, McBryde Sugar Company’s Aepo Reservoir Dam, which was located about two miles north of Kukui‘ula, Kaua‘i, collapsed, causing millions of gallons of water to rush downhill toward Kukui‘ula.

However, a combination of three factors prevented the destruction of Kukui‘ula. 

 First, the Aepoalua Reservoir and Aepoekolu Reservoir dams, which were located below the Aepo Reservoir Dam, although overflowing with floodwaters released from the Aepo Reservoir Dam’s collapse, held.

Later, water was diverted from Aepoalua and Aepoekolu reservoirs, which prevented more flooding.

Second, Aepoeha Reservoir, which was situated below Aepoalua Reservoir and Aepoekolu Reservoir and about 3/4 of a mile immediately above Kukui‘ula, having been filled before the dam break with only 38 feet of its 48-foot water capacity, was able to absorb the shock of the rushing water.  It overflowed, but its dam also held.

Thirdly, a 50-foot high railway embankment between Aepoeha Reservoir and Kukui‘ula acted as a dam by holding back flood water that rose behind it to track level.

In fact, the dam’s collapse caused only slight damage to just five houses and only the homes of Mr. Yamasaki, Mrs. Seki Yamamoto, Junzo Mashita, Mrs. Tsuneo Sugano, Shizu Kawamoto, and Kenishi Funamura were evacuated.  The raging waters did, however, sweep chicken coops and miscellaneous debris across the highway and into Kukui‘ula Bay.

Telephone lines were knocked out, so Miss Shizuno Yamasaki, a clerk in McBryde’s Kukui‘ula branch store managed by her father, Mr. Isuke Yamasaki, rushed to the Lawa‘i Kai residence of Mr. Robert Allerton to phone the McBryde Sugar Co. office.

S. Nishi, a retired McBryde employee, calmed panic-stricken neighbors after the first rush of water.

The Kaua‘i Red Cross provided assistance, and McBryde Sugar Co. performed cleanup duties and repairs.

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