Farmland sat flooded from days of heavy rain yesterday in Kahuku. State officials viewed damage by air.
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Some Oahu farmers fear they've lost months worth of work and thousands of dollars because of last week's heavy rains, which drowned many low-lying crops and could cause rot in others.
"Oh, yeah, we got damage," said Dean Okimoto, owner of Nalo Farms in Waimanalo and president of the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation. "When we get 4 inches of rain in a day, the greens get plundered to the ground."
Farmers in Kahuku and Punaluu are believed to have sustained the heaviest damage, but even Leeward Oahu felt the effects of the storm.
Alec Sou, general manager of Aloun Farms on the Ewa Plains, said he saw 3 inches of rain last weekend and 3 inches on Thursday and Friday.
"The 6 inches seems to be a blessing compared to the Windward side," he said. But he pointed out that the total is nearly half of the average annual rainfall for the area.
"The effect of having 50 percent of the annual rainfall in a short, concentrated time is dramatic on crops. Some will over-mature and will have rain damage."
Sandra Lee Kunimoto, director of the state Department of Agriculture, said her office is assessing rain damage to crops and "will continue to work with the farmers and offer any help we can."
She flew over Windward Oahu farms yesterday to see where the flooding was heaviest, and said low-lying farms seem to have been hit the hardest. Several farmers have already called the state to ask for assistance.
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Gwen Kim's Kaaawa home was flooded during the torrential rains this week. Today friends, family and neighbors will help clean up the silt that has settled in her house. Kim lives adjacent to Kamehameha Highway and says that years of repavement has created a berm that acts like a barrier for the mountain water runoff. She said yesterday that she hopes that a culvert can be dug to direct the water back into the stream just a few houses away from her home.
"We have heard of individuals with pretty devastating damage," she said, adding that the state is looking into the possibility of applying for federal farm aid.
You Soukaseum, who heads the Hawaii Laotian Farmer Association, said at least four farmers in Kahuku have seen heavy damage to their crops.
Fields of pumpkin, chili pepper, okra and eggplant were destroyed, he said.
"We've got some trauma," he said, adding that he has also lost crops on the more than 400 acres of land he farms in Kahuku, Punaluu and Waimanalo.
He estimates the loss at $30,000, if labor costs are added.
"Water came from the mountain and washed the crops and went through to the low side, and now the water's stuck over there," he said. "We cannot work the soil."
Soukaseum said it could take as much as a week for the fields to dry out. By that time, some harvests will have been missed along with scheduled plantings.
Officials said it's too early to tell whether the rains will have a big impact on the Hawaii produce markets. But Sou, of Aloun Farms, said Hawaii consumers will almost surely see a shortage of his goods in grocery markets.
Farmer Virgilio Tomas, who farms 19 acres in Kahuku with his wife, Aurora, estimated that he lost more than $4,000 worth of tomatoes, garlic, shallots and pumpkins after his fields were covered with waist-deep water.
"They will not survive," he said. "We'll have to pull them up and replant."
At his roadside fruit stand yesterday, Tomas said he expects his three acres of bananas will be OK, but he's skeptical that flood aid programs will help him. He said during his first year farming the leased land in 1992, there was flooding but no assistance.
Star-Bulletin reporter Diana Leone contributed to this report.