Damages $10M and rising

LIHUE — A joint preliminary damage assessment released Wednesday found the April flooding caused nearly $11 million in damages on Kauai.

The flooding resulted in more than 350 homes being damaged — 12 destroyed — and an undetermined amount of businesses were impacted on Kauai.

The preliminary assessment does not include highway and roadway damage, according to the press release. Repairs to Kuhio Highway, which was hit by 12 landslides, are estimated at $35 million.

“That’s the assessment for the purposes of applying for and receiving the presidential declaration,” said Richard Rapoza, spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. David Ige signed a request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration seeking help for Kauai and Oahu Wednesday.

The county, state, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the U.S. Small Business Administration performed a Joint Preliminary Damage Assessment for public assistance, and found the floods caused more than $19.7 million in damage on Kauai and Oahu.

“This disaster is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and affected county governments,” Ige said.

The designation will allow the state to apply for financial assistance to complete repairs related to the flooding. If the declaration is granted further detailed review of the damages and costs of repair will take place.

Total rainfall in the 48-hour period ending at 6 p.m. April 15, resulted in 32.3 inches of rain in Wainiha, while Hanalei tapped out at 28.4 inches. Total precipitation up on Mt. Waialeale was measured at 22.3 inches.

The National Weather Service said preliminary data indicated the rains broke a national rainfall record.

A gauge in Waipa on the North Shore recorded nearly 50 inches of rain over a 24-hour period. If certified, the rain would break the current record of 43 inches hit in Texas in 1979.

On Kauai, during a period between April 16-17, U.S. Army helicopter crews delivered about 43,000 pounds of food, water and clothing, to distressed areas.

About 475 people were evacuated by helicopter, while an undetermined number of people were evacuated by boat.

HEMA Disaster Assistance Section Chief Lorinda Wong-Lau said on Kauai after the flood, 65 homes were found to have major damage, while 12 homes were deemed completely destroyed. Of the 12 homes that were destroyed, five of them were not primary homes.

On Oahu, about 50 homes on Oahu suffered major damage or were destroyed.

“I want to say this is a snapshot, they can only look at homes that were reported damaged. I know there are more homes, but we could only look at homes that were reported,” she said.

Since FEMA’s initial investigation, Wong-Lau said the Red Cross and other nonprofits have been assessing additional homes for damages.

The homes, Wong-Lau said, were assessed using the FEMA definition as damaged and destroyed.

“The word they use is habitable, can the home be lived in,” Wong-Lau said. “If the roof is collapsed, can the home be lived in? No. They’re looking for major damage.”

The agency does not have exact numbers of public buildings damaged because they are relying on others to report those damages. “They may not see everything at the time. In a couple of weeks, they may have a better picture,” she said. On a county and state level, most of the damages are to roads, culverts, parks and water systems.

Since the flood, Wong-Lau said there has been $10.8 million worth of emergency work and repairs completed on Kauai, including debris removal.

“This number is going to change,” she said.

If a Federal Disaster Declaration is made, Wong-Lau said FEMA will come out and work with agencies that request assistance and will get estimates from them on how much it will cost to get these items fixed.

FEMA is still in the process of pushing through a presidential disaster declaration, she said.

“We’re all really hopeful it will be soon, but fortunately, there is not deadline, no timeline,” she said. “It could take a couple of days, to a couple of weeks, but we hope that it won’t take that long.”

The Presidential Disaster Declaration was signed shortly after the Joint Preliminary Assessment was delivered to Ige’s office Wednesday, the press release says.

Ige is asking for assistance from the Public Assistance Grant Program, the Individual Assistance Program and the Small Business Administration Disaster assistance program, for the two counties. He also requested assistance from the Hazard Mitigation Grand program statewide.

The state is seeking reimbursement for highway recovery efforts through the Federal Highway Administration’s Emergency Relief Program.

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Bethany Freudenthal, courts, crime and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegardenisland.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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