LIHUE — Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. had heard about the destruction caused by the flooding and landslides on the North Shore in the weekend storm and knew it was a grim situation.
Then, he saw the view from above on a helicopter tour Monday and got a true understanding of the devastation that happened in Hanalei, Haena and Wainiha over the weekend.
He saw streams and rivers that weren’t there before, vehicles were in ditches, rivers and the ocean.
He saw homes and businesses still surrounded by water.
He saw roads still buried in debris.
“To see it from the air was even more devastating,” he said. “The whole visual was hard to take.”
The mayor referred to the erosion he saw at Black Pot Beach Park and said, “that kind of impact has to take it to a different level.”
Though the devastation is great Carvalho remains confident Kauai will come together and bounce back.
It has before.
“We’re a resilient community,” he said in a phone interview with The Garden Island.
Gov. David Ige, Carvalho, and military and county emergency crews took a helicopter tour of the impacted areas on the North Shore aboard a Hawai‘i National Guard Black Hawk Helicopter Monday morning.
The governor and mayor flew over heavily damaged regions in the Hanalei District — including Wainiha and Haena, where they saw the swollen Hanalei River, flooded neighborhoods and farmlands caused by a storm that at one point dumped 27 inches of rain on Hanalei and nearly 20 in Wainiha in 24 hours.
Four homes were destroyed in Wainiha and more were severely damaged in Hanalei.
“Damage is very extensive in this area,” Ige said. “The immediate problem is access. Several landslides are blocking roads into the communities.”
He said it was amazing that some 24 hours after the worst of it, there was still wide-scale flooding.
“Seeing the devastation from the air certainly put it in new perspective,” Ige said.
Emergency rescue crews have evacuated 152 people by helicopter, 121 by bus and others by water.
“A tremendous effort is underway with the assistance of our county, state and federal partners, along with countless donations and volunteers from across our island and state, we are slowly but surely getting food, water and medical supplies to those in need,” Carvalho said.
Crews are working to restore access to the Hanalei District, but it will take some time, he said, and they are establishing landing zones for aircraft.
The Hawaii National Guard has deployed two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, two CH-47 Chinooks, eight Zodiacs and more than 45 soldiers and airmen to support rescue efforts, and to get medical aid and necessary supplies to the area.
“We have a good partnership with the governor and the state team. Our big effort was the delivery of relief supplies,” Carvalho said. “Our first response team has also assessed the area and the major issue is the different rock falls and landslides all along from Wainiha — six or seven of them. Our state and county teams are working to assess each area to see how quickly we can open up the roadways.”
The governor landed at the Lihue Airport about 7:30 a.m. Monday and headed straight to the Kauai Emergency Management Agency’s operations center for a video teleconference briefing with Carvalho and state and county emergency personnel.
“This is a statewide, collaborative effort to reestablish access and help this community in any way we can,” Gov. Ige said.
Ige and Carvalho issued emergency declarations on Sunday and are in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as Kauai plans its recovery and rebuilding efforts.
“We’re working as a team,” Carvalho said.
The focus now is on helping people — getting water, food and supplies to those in need. Providing shelter for those with nowhere to go, he said.
“That’s what we’re doing as we speak,” he said. “The main effort is about people.”
Damage assessment, repairs, rebuilding, will follow.
“We’ve assembled an awesome team,” he said.
The recovery will take time, Ige said, and there is much work to do. Access is limited and will be for some time.
But spirits, determination, and resolve, remain strong, he said.
“It was inspiring to see the community pulling together,” Ige said.