Rainy March shows where to improve preparation
Blue skies and tradewinds have returned to Hawaii after the rainiest March on record at many locations.
MORE than 40 continuous days of record-breaking rain
have come to an end, allowing residents and tourists to dry up and state and county tourism officials to send the message that blue skies have returned to Hawaii. Government officials also need to determine how to better prepare for the next torrential rains.
The cloudbursts, which set records for March in several locations on Oahu and Kauai, created a leak in Hawaii's tourism, but the $100,000 to be spent by the state on a nationwide public relations campaign should provide an adequate plug. National media have spotlighted Hawaii's rain and now are reporting that the state is open for business.
Despite the downpours, the state never was closed. Some visitors driven from beaches by the wet weather or sewage-contaminated ocean spent their time in shops and indoor entertainment. Kahala Mall took a hit for a few days while repairs were made on store carpets and furniture damaged by runoff from Hunakai Street.
Some tourists canceled plans after the early stages of the rains resulted in a dam break that took seven lives on Kauai. Others, such as Amber Hunt, a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, came to Kauai anyway. "After all," she wrote afterward, "a soggy paradise is still ... paradise."
Attorney General Mark Bennett is leading an investigation into a privately owned dam that collapsed under the weight of the Ka Loko Reservoir on Kauai. The state Department of Land and Natural Resources had never inspected the dam although required to do so every five years.
Rep. Neil Abercrombie said such a probe should be conducted by a federal or independent attorney. "This is very rapidly morphing into a very complicated and detailed challenge in which the attorney general will very rapidly find himself immersed in conflict," he said. Bennett anticipates no such conflict, but his investigation should not preclude an outside inquiry. Meanwhile, DNLR's budget should be increased to provide an adequate number of engineers to conduct inspections of the many other privately owned dams in the state.
The rains caused numerous landslides on Oahu, and Governor Lingle said the city and state might need to review zoning laws to determine whether people should be allowed to build next to streams and mountainsides. After viewing the island by air last weekend, she added that those who already live in such places "need to be vigilant."
Residents certainly are responsible for the risks they take in placing their homes in precarious locations, but government is obligated through zoning to keep homebuilders away from what could turn from a scenic outlook into a destructive heap of mud.
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