"It sounded like a Mack truck coming
down the hill, and Norfolk pines snapping sounded like crackling fire."
Kilauea Neighborhood Association president
COURTESY OF STATE DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Houses on Wailapa Road were shown yesterday amid the muddy damage and debris field from the Ka Loko Reservoir Dam breach.
CLICK FOR LARGE VERSION
» Floods burst one dam and strain another, forcing evacuations from the north shore
» The body of one man is found off shore as the search for six others continues today
» Thousands of visitors and residents are stranded after debris blocks Kuhio Highway
>> Online extra photo coverage
Kauai's north shore was devastated yesterday by a breach in the nearby Ka Loko Reservoir that poured torrents of water down, sweeping up to seven people in two houses into the ocean.
And state Civil Defense officials say the area is facing another crisis from another earthen dam that was in danger of failing.
Officials evacuated the area downhill from Morita Dam and also forced searchers and rescue teams to leave the area, said Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee, state adjutant general, who along with Gov. Linda Lingle will tour the area today.
The dam "could go at any time," said Lee, noting that pictures taken yesterday showed half of the width of the dam's wall was gone along the downslope side.
The National Weather Service late last night issued a flash-flood warning for Kauai until 12:10 a.m. today.
Yesterday's Ka Loko Reservoir flood, which began just after 5 a.m., sent a 100-yard river of water choked with debris across Kuhio Highway and down Wailapa Stream to Kahili Quarry Beach, with debris found at beaches miles away.
The Coast Guard found the body of one unidentified person in Kilauea Bay yesterday, Civil Defense chief Lee said. The search is expected to resume today for the remaining six people, with a little help: The Hawaii Urban Search and Rescue Team, made up of firefighters and medics from all four counties as well as rescue dogs, was expected to participate.
The waters also damaged power lines and Kuhio Highway, which left thousands of residents and visitors stranded, and cut off power and water for a brief period, along Kauai's north shore.
Other Kilauea residents were told to evacuate later yesterday morning as Morita Reservoir, just downstream from Ka Loko Dam, was in danger of breaking.
Eight people sought shelter at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center last night, but nearby residents sheltered them instead, said county public information officer Mary Daubert.
The state of Morita Reservoir is also the reason why Kuhio Highway will not be open until this morning at the earliest, county officials said.
Lingle is to lead an inspection of the devastated Kilauea area of Kauai today. She will hold a town hall meeting at the Kilauea Neighborhood Center at 8:30 a.m.
CASEY AND CYNDI RIEMER, JACK HARTER HELICOPTERS / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
The devastated Kuhio Highway on Kauai's north shore was impassable and covered with mud and debris yesterday after the Ka Loko Reservoir Dam collapsed.
CLICK FOR LARGE VERSION
Lingle and Lee will fly in Hawaii National Guard helicopters to view the former Kilauea Sugar Plantation dam.
Lingle yesterday added to her emergency proclamation issued a week and a half ago, allowing the state Civil Defense to destroy any dam or reservoir on private property that poses an imminent threat to people.
Ten Honolulu firefighters were to be sent to Kauai on Army National Guard helicopters yesterday afternoon and up to 20 Army and Air National Guard members who live on Kauai were activated to help Kauai Civil Defense, Lee said.
Two Army Corps of Engineers staffers -- an emergency management specialist and a geologist -- were dispatched yesterday to survey the damage, said Derek Chow, a corps senior project manager.
The Coast Guard sent a C-130, two helicopters and the cutter Washington to search for survivors.
Two days of heavy rains caused the Ka Loko Dam -- created to store water for sugar cane irrigation -- to collapse along a 120-foot section, Lee said. A wall of water, estimated to be at least 20 feet high because of the debris hanging from the top of utility poles, flattened a grove of trees and then raced down a gulch, pouring into Morita Dam.
"A large volume of water came across Highway 56, swept two houses off their foundations and ripped up the highway, rendering it impassable," Lee said during an evening news conference yesterday in the Governor's Office at the state Capitol. Rod Haraga, transportation director, said the Ka Loko floodwaters ripped up 300 feet of the roadway, but it could be replaced once state workers are allowed back in the area.
"When the dam overflowed, the emergency workers were pulled out," Haraga said.
Appearing at the news conference were Kauai's three state representatives, including Rep. Hermina Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa), who stressed she was not related to the owners of the dam.
"Everyone is devastated by the loss of life and now frustrated by the situation," Morita said.
Morita said the dam was privately owned, but state officials were still double-checking the property owner. There are 60 privately owned dams and reservoirs on Kauai and 13 state-owned dams, according to Lingle.
Lee said the dams are made of earth and were built between 1890 and 1920 for the sugar plantations. Morita said she didn't know if the Ka Loko or Morita dams were used for anything except for fishing and to store water.
DAVID SINTON / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
This photo showed yesterday's flood damage near the Morita Reservoir after the Ka Loko Reservoir Dam burst.
Lee said Kauai civil defense officials were also watching the Waita Dam and the reservoirs owned by Kauai Coffee because of the danger that they could overflow.
Grove Farm Co. has taken two actions to prevent an overflow of the Waita Reservoir. The company has shut off the intake tunnel and has been releasing water into adjacent Maha'ulepu Valley for three week since the rains began.
Kilauea resident Takayuki Kimura, 83, who worked for the Kilauea Sugar Plantation for 34 years, said he wasn't surprised that the dam broke since it likely isn't being properly maintained.
When the plantation was in operation, it controlled water levels by releasing excess water through a gate into ditches and drains "so the reservoir won't overflow," he said.
Kimura would go up to the Ka Loko Reservoir to repair ditches that fed water to the reservoir. Plantation workers also built stone dams to hold back water destined for the mill and to feed other fields, Kimura said.
TO SEND DONATIONS
The Hawai'i Community Foundation has established the Kaua'i Island Fund to help people affected by the overflow of Ka Loko Reservoir in Kilauea.
Donations should be made payable to the Kaua'i Island Fund and sent to the Hawai'i Community Foundation, 1164 Bishop St., Suite 800, Honolulu 96813-2817.
Star-Bulletin reporters Diana Leone and Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.
Helicopters ferry hundreds on Kauai
The road closure between Princeville and Lihue inconvenienced many tourists and locals bent on catching interisland flights yesterday.
Heli USA Airways, a large tour helicopter operator in Lihue, said it made more than a dozen trips from Princeville to the Lihue Airport carrying 50 or more people -- including tourists and locals -- who wanted to catch flights off the island.
"I'd say hundreds are stranded," said Rich Johnson, Heli USA general manager in Lihue. "People flying in and out of Lihue are really stuck."
Johnson said that at one point the Federal Aviation Administration closed Lihue Airport to commercial traffic so that it could handle search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard.
David Uchiyama, a spokesman for the Princeville Resort, a luxury hotel, said that about 25 to 30 people who arrived yesterday at Lihue Airport with plans to stay at the Princeville were rerouted to the more accessible Sheraton Kauai at a special room rate.
Uchiyama said about 12 guests who could not extend their stay in Princeville were helicoptered to the airport by Heli USA.