KOLOA — A Koloa business owner is concerned that clogged culverts near Weliweli Road caused some of the flooding in the area, and has been trying to get the County of Kauai to remedy the problem.
The county says it has been working diligently to address flood-related issues from both April’s historic flooding and the recent flooding as a result of Hurricane Lane.
Laura Chang Nagao’s family has owned Chang’s Building off of Weliweli Road in Koloa for about a century. The family used to run a transportation business on the property, but now it’s home to several shops.
When the flooding happened in April, water nearly reached their building and other buildings in the area.
“Everyone had a hard time because it’s a storm,” she said. “This hasn’t been brought up until now because the flooding here, one hour more it would have gone into the buildings and I thank God it didn’t.”
One of the stores in the building closed for the day and an employee at another business in the building was stuck in traffic for a couple of hours, but still came to work, Nagao said.
“So it impacts. If I was a customer, I wouldn’t come out on that day,” she said. “That’s why my daughter called me up. I was going to come down and I had my grandchildren. She said ‘don’t come down, I’m over here, I’ll cover it.’”
The culvert has been blocked before, and they have seen water backed up when it’s regularly raining.
“No one does anything. Finally this happened,” she said. “I feel personally it’s toxic.”
On the day of the recent flood, Laura’s daughter Christyl went right to work caring for the properties she manages as well as taking care of her mother’s building in Koloa.
The water nearly reached Chang’s Building and other businesses near Weliweli Road that day, so she knew she had to do something.
“The water was a lot higher than I’ve ever seen it, so I knew there was a culvert so I took my hoe and shovel. It was probably three feet deep in some areas. I was digging for a while until it got dark,” she said.
Nagao spent two or three hours that day cleaning out the culvert, and once the water started receding, hauled away bags of leaves and other gunk.
“I just kept plugging away at the area where the storm drain was. I think it helped a little, but not enough.”
Acting County Engineer Lyle Tabata said the county is working with the limited amount of resources to respond to the after-effects of the flooding.
“Priorities are to address immediate health and safety issues,” he said.
The county plans on addressing the culverts near Weliweli Road by the end of September, he said.
The storm in April was the worst Nagao has ever seen.
“The main thing is nobody got hurt. If this is not told, a lot of places on Kauai, they didn’t say anything, ‘in our mind it’s an act of God,’ but to me, a lot of things can be prevented,” she said. “In our days, they cleaned the shoulder of the road before winter, they clean it out until it runs off the road, but they don’t do it now and it’s sad.”
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.