HANALEI — A construction crew swarmed over the remains of the end of Weke Road at Black Pot Beach Park on Friday, working against time to stabilize one house that survived the April flood disaster only to be nearly swept away when last week’s torrential rains hit and a temporary roadway failed.
Workers using three heavy-duty hydraulic jacks, steel beams and wood cribbing were attempting to lift the house back to a more or less level condition after it tilted at a nearly 45-degree angle when it was struck by new floodwaters that breached a repair area.
It remained unclear why the repair consisted of filling in the stream dug out by the April storm that connected the Hanalei River and Hanalei Bay by a straighter route than the existing natural meander of the river. In the wake of the April disaster, however, hydrology experts familiar with Hanalei noted that, historically, the river may have followed what appeared to be a newly carved course hundreds, or even thousands, of years ago.
Crews from Earthworks Pacific and Kauai County rushed on Friday to stabilize the tilting house, whose support pilings were completely washed out, leaving the structure precariously askew, with the back of the house at risk of falling away and the front wall torn away from the floor line like a piece of ripped paper.
Nearby, at least four other houses already devastated in April appeared to have sustained additional damage last week. Two homes that were completely undermined in April also showed signs of fresh additional damage, pancaking down on their foundations. Belongings like deck chairs, a grill and interior furnishings remained in place. Nearly all windows were broken out — most of the damage inflicted by the initial storm collapse and looting that occurred in the days immediately after the storm.
Another crew worked to dump new rock, gravel and sand fill into the river outlet carved in April and then washed out again last week. Kauai County and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working to try to determine how the new damage occurred, and to start to fix responsibility.
County officials said they had no explanation yet for why the flooded area was simply backfilled, with no provision for drainage. The situation apparently caused the reconstructed temporary roadway to act as a dam, which allowed the torrent last week to wash around it and eat away the structural underpinnings of both previously damaged homes and the newly collapsed structure.
An inspector assigned to the project shook his head as he looked at the work in progress. “Obviously, there is going to be at least one really big lawsuit out of this,” he said.
Allan Parachini is a Kilauea resident who writes periodically for The Garden Island.