Wind, rain hamper storm cleanup

Cleanup crews fought heavy rains and high winds to repair downed lines, move fallen tree branches and boulders, and open blocked roadways Sunday following days of relentless storms.

“There are a number of locations where the road is unsafe,” said Pam Brown, public relations manager for Bow Construction Management Service, a Lihu‘e-based firm that is performing contract cleanup work for the highway division of the Hawai‘i Department of Transportation.

Many of the crews were working on roadways on the island’s hard-hit North Shore.

“Traffic can get through, but if people can avoid driving on these areas of the road it is safer for everyone — the drivers and the construction crews,” she added.

Brown said North Shore road repairs and hillside stabilization work are also being conducted by KIUC, Hawaiian Tel, Time-Warner Cable, Earthworks Pacific and AIS.

Traffic approaching Kuhio Highway in Kilauea was being routed Sunday through Kilauea town on Kolo Road as crews repaired a damaged culvert beneath the highway.

The Hanalei-bound lane of Kuhio Highway from Princeville to Hanalei Bridge remained closed as crews repaired asphalt that planed off from heavy flooding. Construction flagmen keep traffic flowing as they awaited the arrival of materials needed to complete repairs.

Brown said the engineers reported that Kuhio Highway near Dry Cave in Ha‘ena also remained closed Sunday as crews scaled boulders and moved trees in danger of falling from the hillside.

“There tends to be a lot of traffic on the hillside down from Princeville to Hanalei, and the landslide and continuing rain is making conditions worse,” Brown said. “It is ongoing work with one lane open and flagmen on either side moving traffic as quickly and safely as possible.”

“We want construction workers to be safe while they do repairs,” Brown added.

Emergency road work was suspended Sunday afternoon due to high winds and rain. Brown said crews planned to resume work today, weather permitting.

The National Weather Service extended a high surf advisory for east-facing shores of Kaua‘i until 6 p.m. today, citing large, breaking waves that can produce dangerous rip currents. The weather service issued a wind advisory for much of the island until 6 p.m. today.

“Winds this strong can bring down tree branches and make driving difficult,” the weather service’s website stated, citing the potential for winds to reach 30 mph with wind gusts up to 50 mph.

A “brown water” advisory has been in place on Kaua‘i since Feb. 27 because of the heavy rains. The state Health Department’s website urges residents to stay out of flood waters and storm water runoff. “If coastal waters are turbid and brown, stay out,” the website stated, also citing the health dangers of  pesticides, pathogens, chemicals and other associated flood debris.

On the island’s Eastside, Kaua‘i County Public Works crews worked on two sinkholes at Pua Loke from Saturday until about 3:30 a.m. Sunday before taking a break and returning to the job about 9:30 a.m.

Dustin Moises of the county Water Department was one of the first people calling in the report around 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Since then, he said the department has replaced about 100 feet of pipe to restore water service to nearby residents.

Moises credited the Public Works Department, notably supervisor Scott Suga, who just joined the county two months ago. The department has had two crews working to repair the road since the discovery of the sinkholes.

“The residents in this area were without water since about 9:30 Saturday morning,” Moises said. “Scott has been here ever since, staying with the crews all the while they were here, the water being restored around 4:30 a.m. Sunday.”

The Kaua‘i chapter of the American Red Cross is reporting that volunteers have assisted several families around the island.

Jennifer Walter, manager of response and preparedness, said volunteers went to work last Wednesday, handing out donated cleanup kits and assessing flood and wind damage to homes. The homes with more immediate needs from substantial damage were visited by case workers who helped with disaster assistance, she added.

• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.

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