HANALEI — Volunteers wait near Nourish Hanalei in Princeville under a tent as a light rain falls Saturday, helping to coordinate UTVs and supplies, directing people where to go.
“As a community member, everyone jumps into action,” Megan Wong said. “We learned a lot from the 2018 floods.”
Wong is just one of the many community members who are braving the weather, putting others first and ensuring people and resources get into or out of Hanalei after a Wednesday landslide at Hanalei Hill buried a portion of Kuhio Highway, the only roadway accessing the North Shore.
Heading north from Princeville starts with a rocky and muddy UTV ride down a steep, unimproved road off Hanalei Plantation Drive.
One UTV driver, Kaimi Kaneholani, spent his 13th wedding anniversary driving people and goods down the access road. Kaneholani started his day at 5 a.m., and didn’t think it’d stop till after dark. But he didn’t mind the bumpy ride that takes less than five minutes to the Hanalei River.
There, volunteers load small fishing boats with people and supplies. Being ferried over is one of the only ways to get to Hanalei Boat Ramp at Black Pot Beach Park, accessing the cut-off communities of Hanalei, Wainiha and Ha‘ena that lack a gas station or medical center.
Kainoah Wong, Megan’s brother, stands in the river, helping people off the boats and carrying cartons of gasoline or food to dry land.
“Anybody can get down the river,” he said. “We’re just trying to get people over safely.”
On the Hanalei side of the river, Joel Guy of The Hanalei Initiative is coordinating shipments of food to stores and restaurants. That also includes employees who live east of the river.
Human transport is being accomplished in three time frames: 8 to 9 a.m., 11 a.m. to noon and 4 to 5 p.m., or until pau. Emergency access is also coordinated.
When not primarily moving people, fresh produce, milk, bread, pet food and more will move across the river in this all-hand’s-on-deck effort.
By Monday, Guy plans to have a shuttle that will allow people to park at the Princeville Makai Golf Course and be driven to the UTVs. Keeping the road clear is important for emergency vehicles. It’s important to keep the traffic open to get essential workers in and out, emergency medical calls as well as supplies, Guy explained.
“We’re encouraging people who can move east to reduce the impact on resources,” Guy said.
That includes tourists.
Around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Laura Bowles and Rob Reilly made their way across the river into Princeville.
The pair originally scheduled a three-week vacation from New York City. Saturday marked Bowles’ 50th birthday.
Bowles and Reilly were at the beach on Tuesday. Within the day, their Ha‘ena property manager reached out to them, explaining the severity and seriousness of the situation. They moved their flight up to today.
As of Saturday, the state Department of Transportation reported new findings of a large mass of unstable material on Kuhio Highway, and a newly-discovered fissure. The loose material must be brought down before contractors can work on clearing and reestablishing road access, according to a press release. The department continues to target a single, emergency-lane access by next week.
Residents are gearing up for the long run and remain optimistic, pointing to still having clean water, electricity and internet, as well as few reports of damaged homes, unlike in 2018.
Being able to provide the boat fare, UTV rides and soon shuttles is expensive, Megan Wong said. One way to donate is at the Princeville Shell station, which will go directly toward fuel costs. The nonprofit Hanalei Initiative is also taking donations at gofundme.com/f/princeville-to-hanalei-transport-and-relief-fund.
Sabrina Bodon, public safety and government reporter, can be reached at 245-0441 or email@example.com.