KAUAI DAM BREAK
CASEY AND CYNDI RIEMER, JACK HARTER HELICOPTERS / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
The water path of the Ka Loko Dam burst was evident yesterday.
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Destruction shocks, angers residents
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LIHUE » Residents of Kilauea are shocked that two homes and families were swept away by an early-morning flood, killing at least one and leaving another six still missing, said Linda Pasadava, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association.
"People that were there said it sounded like a Mack truck coming down the hill and Norfolk pines snapping sounded like crackling fire," she said yesterday. "It was probably feet from the next nearest home."
There are a number of construction projects in the area that slid and "all of the (lands) that have been cleared have just washed away, Pasadava said.
"This is what happens when you dig into mountains," Pasadava said. "The community I've spoken to is furious -- they just don't know who to be furious at."
As of sundown yesterday, the body of a man in his 30s was recovered a mile out to sea, while six other Kilauea residents were still missing after an earthen wall of the Ka Loko Dam crumbled away and a rush of water 100 yards wide wrecked everything in its path, including at least two homes.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
By late yesterday afternoon, most traffic had subsided on Kuhio Highway on Kauai's north coast, and curious tourists and travelers were escorted away from the hazardous scene by Kauai police.
The missing were identified by numerous Kilauea residents as tenants and members of the Fehring family, a well-known Kilauea clan who managed vacation rentals and also ran a Waldorf nursery school on their Wailapa Road property.
Kilauea residents said the two families, including Aurora Fehring, her husband, Adam, and their 2-year-old child, lived in cabins near the banks of Wailapa Stream, usually a gentle-moving tributary of Kilauea Stream that is known for a small waterfall and wading pool nicknamed "Bette Midler's Falls."
Among the missing is 49-year-old Wayne Rotstein, who worked as a gardener and landscaper for the Fehrings.
Rotstein's parents received a call from landowner Bruce Fehring yesterday, saying their son was missing along with Fehring's own daughter, son-in-law and grandson, who were swept up in a surge of water, Rotstein's brother, Gary, related.
Rotstein, a Pittsburgh native, had moved to Hawaii about five years ago from Las Vegas.
Gary Rotstein, a reporter with the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, said he is searching for any information about his brother and trying to understand the situation by using the Internet and making phone calls. He said his parents were shocked and astonished.
"It's flabbergasting for everyone because it seems like a one-in-a-million freakish thing that he would have been caught up in the middle of," Rotstein said.
Kuhio Highway was closed because of the threat from the Morita Dam.
Visitors and tourists rushed local food stores, worried that the closed highway will mean no deliveries to the local supermarkets.
"We have no bread, we're low on water and rice. ... Our sales are comparable to Christmas Eve," said Maria Berdon, an office clerk at the Princeville Foodland. "It's just nuts. I don't know why ... people are just panicked."
COURTESY OF STATE DEPARTMENT OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Damage downstream from the Ka Loko Reservoir Dam breach was shown yesterday in this aerial view.
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County officials gave no time frame on when the highway might be open, leaving frantic vacationers no choice but to try to fly out of Princeville Airport via helicopter.
Those flights were booked quickly, and numerous visitors were stuck, complaining to police that they were missing international flights.
Kilauea residents and friends of the Fehring family, longtime Kauai residents, tried to do their part in aiding in the search.
Amy and Rick Marvin, who live just east of Kilauea Bay, spent the morning looking for their friends as debris collected along the shore fronting their home. Among the mess of trees, branches and earth were signs of the cabins, including treated wood and household items.
"I feel so terrible for our friends and the loss they are suffering," Rick Marvin said. "There was so much debris."
State Rep. Mina Morita said in a statement: "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the people missing after the dam burst, as well as with those who have lost their homes and their agribusinesses in the flooding.
"At this time, my office is helping to make sure that the repairs to the highway are done as quickly as possible, and that all resources are available for the search and rescue, as well as the overall recovery effort."
Star-Bulletin reporter Leila Fujimori contributed to this report.
Soaked areas under watch
Oahu Civil Defense identifies spots that must be monitored continuously until dry weather returns
With the ground still saturated by heavy rains this month, Oahu Civil Defense planned to stay up all night monitoring weather conditions, stream flows and potential flooding locations, spokesman John Cummings III said yesterday.
Meanwhile, city crews worked overtime last night pumping water from low-lying areas of soggy Kaaawa as a pre-emptive move.
In light of deadly floodwaters that cut off Kauai's North Shore from the rest of the island yesterday, Civil Defense workers will take a careful look at Oahu's potential overflow areas, Cummings said.
"All of us at Oahu Civil Defense are very saddened by events on Kauai today," Cummings said.
"Right now it (the weather forecast) looks pretty good for the next four to six hours," Cummings said last night. "But until we have a week or two of straight, dry weather," emergency personnel can't let up their guard, he said. "Our weather is so finicky here."
Cummings said three areas will get particular scrutiny from Oahu Civil Defense:
» Nuuanu Reservoir at the top of Nuuanu Valley. The Board of Water Supply-maintained reservoir has been at 33 to 34 feet during the past two weeks, said spokeswoman Su Shin.
» Lake Wilson in Wahiawa, which neared its maximum 84-foot level Thursday, prompted Civil Defense to alert residents of Otake Camp downstream they might have to relocate. But the level went down.
» Kailua's Kawainui Marsh remains a monitoring point, though the water level has never climbed past 7 feet since a levee and wall were built.