Radio stations provide key lifeline
Kauai's radio stations stayed on the air through the rain and floods this week, providing listeners the lifeline of emergency information they needed to weather the onslaught.
Talk station KQNG-AM 570 dropped its normal programming and simulcast 24-hour disaster coverage on affiliate KQNG-FM 93.5 "since just before the dam broke, with total access for the county and state emergency departments and our local air staff relaying messages, phone calls and announcements from everyone who needs to get a message out to the community," said President John Detz.
KQNG is the primary Emergency Alert System station on Kauai, meaning it is the first station government officials call when there is a need to disseminate emergency information.
Several staff members worked on the air 33 hours straight, took a nap and were back on the air four hours later.
Other Visionary stations, including KSHK-FM 103.3, KSRF-FM 95.9 and KUAI-AM 720, aired multiple updates for listeners each hour.
"I am so proud of the staff," Detz said. "This is the very essence of local radio that satellite, Internet and national distribution can never accomplish."
H. Hawaii Media stations KITH-FM 98.9 and KTOH-FM 99.9 also broke into programming with updates. "I think all the broadcasters have done a pretty decent job. Everybody's doing their fair share," said President George Hochman.
He is grateful that Kauai Island Utility Cooperative was able to keep the electricity flowing to the island's broadcast towers in Lihue and on a ridge halfway between Lihue and Poipu, as well as on the North Shore.
Kauai's KKCR-FM 90.9, which has repeaters at 91.9 and 92.7 on the FM dial, is the island's only full-power noncommercial station. It has a paid staff of six but relies on 70 volunteers to host various community affairs and music programs during the week, according to General Manager Gwen Palagi.
Its reach is islandwide, but its studios and transmitter are in Princeville, to which access is regularly cut off following torrential rains. Palagi and other staff members as well as volunteers were not able to get to the station until Kuhio Highway was reopened Wednesday.
"We've just been trying to stay in constant contact with Civil Defense, the county offices" and other emergency services to keep the community informed, she said. "During times like this, we interrupt regularly scheduled programming every time we get a bit of information."
Government has no reach to do what the radio and television stations do in emergencies and disasters, said Ray Lovell, state Civil Defense spokesman.
Lovell, a former reporter known as a wordsmith, found it hard to describe the importance of community-minded broadcasters during disasters and other emergency situations.
"I wish I could find an adjective that is big enough and glowing enough to describe what that means -- and not just to us, but to the people," he said.
C-17 cargo jet brings pumps and pipes to control water
A Hickam-based C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet, crewed by active-duty Air Force and Hawaii Air National Guard personnel, joined the Garden Island flood relief effort last night by flying three water pumps and large pipes to Lihue.
First Lt. Craig Savage, Hickam spokesman, said the Globemaster -- one of eight assigned to the Air Force base -- first flew to Hilo to pick up 27,000 pounds of equipment, including three industrial high-output water pumps and associated pipes and was to deliver them to Lihue during the night.
Maj. Chuck Anthony, National Guard spokesman, said the pumps were to arrive in Lihue after 8 p.m. yesterday and will be used "to help expedite water from the dams."
Anthony said 42 Hawaii Army Guard soldiers and Hawaii Air Guard personnel have been placed on state active duty to monitor the levels at Kauai's dams and help citizens who might have to be evacuated.
Besides several 5-ton trucks and water trailers, the Hawaii Army National Guard has dispatched two of its UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the relief effort.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Aloha Place and Wailaau Road intersection near Koloa, Kauai, was flooded yesterday.
TO SEEK DISASTER HELP OR OFFER DONATIONS
Here is a list of resources for victims of the Kauai dam disaster, along with contacts for those interested in donating to help in the recovery.
» Flood victims can contact the American Red Cross at 245-4919 for shelter, food, clothing and other household necessities.
» Victims can also call Aloha United Way's 211 help line to report damage and access services.
» To give to flood victims, contact the Hawaii Community Foundation at 566-5527 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Checks should be made out to the Kauai Island Fund and sent to the foundation at 1164 Bishop St., Honolulu, HI 97813.
» Donations can also be sent to the American Red Cross of Hawaii. If sending a check, write in the memo line that the money is meant for the Kauai disaster. Checks should be sent to the Red Cross at 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu, HI 96816. Funds can also be sent online at www.hawaiiredcross.org. For more information, call the Red Cross at 739-8109.
LIMITED POSTAL SERVICE AVAILABLE
Postal service to some residents in Kilauea resumed yesterday after being halted following Tuesday's Ka Loko Reservoir Dam breach.
Carriers were determining yesterday which homes they would be able to get to. Mail for homes still inaccessible will be held at the post office for pickup or later delivery. Meanwhile, the Hanalei and Princeville post offices opened for business yesterday. The offices had been closed because all of their workers live south of where floodwaters cut through Kuhio Highway.