THE KAUAI DAM CRISIS
Kauai gets reprieve from rain
LIHUE » Heavy rain and thundershowers cleared yesterday morning, bringing sunshine to the Garden Island for the first time in weeks and a chance for island residents to dry out and assess the damage from the deluge.
However, forecaster Jeff Powell said last night that the weather system over the Hawaiian Islands is still unstable and could still bring more heavy rain with little notice.
With yesterday's break in the weather, the county is working on assessing the damage from the rain.
Civil Defense Vice Director Ed Teixeira is scheduled to arrive in Kauai today with other state officials and a University of Hawaii dam expert to fly over the area by helicopter.
"Hooray, it's going to be a good day!" said Harriet Iseri as the sun shone over her home near Waikomo Stream which was threatened by floodwaters Thursday night.
Her adult son Neal returned home yesterday after spending Thursday night at the nearby home of a relative. He could not sleep, he said, until he heard the rain subside.
Over the last three weeks, Iseri has built a low wall of sandbags around his house, which helped keep the water out. But Iseri is not taking any chances over the next few days. "Maybe I'll put more bags," he said.
In other developments yesterday:
» Kapaa Bypass road, which was closed yesterday morning because of flooding, reopened, but not before causing large traffic backups in both directions during most of the day.
» Health-warning signs to avoid contact with the water were posted at Kikiaola Small Boat Harbor because of a spill of treated waste water and storm runoff into the Kikiaola Ditch, which leads to the harbor.
» An emergency shelter at Kapaa Middle School was closed yesterday, and the Red Cross said it was evaluating whether to close other shelters. Shelters at the Kalaheo and Kilauea neighborhood centers reported no clients yesterday afternoon, down from 12 at Kalaheo overnight and four in Kilauea. Six people were being housed at the Waimea Neighborhood Center.
» The county and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are working on opening Disaster Assistance Centers, possibly next week, where people can apply for federal help in recovering from the flooding. The timing will depend on whether more rain comes to Kauai.
The weather is also having an effect on Kauai tourism.
Freckels Smith, owner of Smith's Tropical Boat Tours, said his tours to Fern Grotto on the Wailua River have not been running since Monday.
Smith said the docks for the ferry boats were damaged and need to be replaced after Tuesday's heavy rain.
"It's best that we cool it for a while," Smith said. "Maybe Monday, we'll reopen."
"Sixty years, we've never closed (for this long) before," he added. "Tourists are discouraged."
In Koloa, merchant Camie Kaohelaulii said after the sun came out, "business is booming," as tourists who were stuck in their hotels went shopping.
Two Koloa businesses next to the river -- Crazy Shirts and Koloa Natural Foods -- were forced to close when the water rose Thursday.
The river had dropped about 4 to 5 feet by yesterday afternoon, and an air-conditioning repairman was working under the Crazy Shirts store, where a compressor had been submerged by the river.
Kauai Mayor Bryan Baptiste said the county has done as much as it can to prepare for more rain.
Life "will get back to normal as soon as it stops raining," he said.