RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Army National Guard and Air National Guard soldiers were at the scene yesterday of the recent landslides on Round Top Drive, shoveling dirt into bags for use as barriers against further erosion if rain returns.
Digging out ...
Skies might be clear, but weeks of rain leave the state mired in a mess at ground level
Hawaii's tourist-friendly tradewind weather has finally returned, but the aftermath of six weeks of rain continues to cast a long shadow over island residents.
Yesterday, state officials announced that Diamond Head Road will be closed for three weeks while the Department of Land and Natural Resources clears unstable rock outcroppings from the face of the famous landmark.
The stretch from Kuilei Beach Park to the Kahala Avenue intersection will be closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, including city buses. Diamond Head Road residents will be allowed to use the road, however.
LINGERING PROBLEM AREAS
Kahala Mall: Kahala Mall is expected to reopen today, but a few stores will remain closed. See Page C1.
Waimanalo: State officials continue to evaluate the Kailua Reservoir in Waimanalo, which overflowed Sunday, forcing more than 30 people to evacuate.
Waikiki: Beaches remain closed as the bacteria counts off Waikiki remain high from the estimated 48 million-gallon raw sewage spill.
Diamond Head: Diamond Head Road is closed for three weeks while the state clears unstable rock outcroppings above the road.
The closure of the heavily used road is just the latest effect from a weather system that spread misery throughout the islands since February.
National Weather Service forecasters say the six-week period of heavy showers and thunderstorms is over.
"The outlook is for increasing tradewinds and a return to a more typical pattern of tradewind weather," said Derek Wroe, weather service forecaster.
At 4 p.m. yesterday the weather service canceled the seemingly ubiquitous flash-flood watch for the state.
And as tourists and residents welcomed the return of tradewinds and sunshine, state and city officials tried to tally the damage of the rain, flooding and landslides.
Gov. Linda Lingle announced plans to provide tax relief to families and businesses that suffered damage from the recent heavy rains.
She has instructed the state tax director to propose extending tax credits to residents and businesses that suffered damage from the recent storms.
Legislation pending before lawmakers would provide up to $10,000 in tax credits for Manoa residents whose homes were damaged in the 2004 Halloween Eve flood. The bill was recently amended to include homes in Windward Oahu. Lingle wants the bill to include all homes and businesses damaged by rains and floods over the past six weeks.
That's a long list.
Since the rain-laden weather system parked itself over Hawaii in mid-February, the state has seen:
» A deadly dam breach on Kauai that swept seven people away on March 14. The bodies of three victims have been recovered, while the rest are missing and presumed dead. The floodwaters also cut off North Shore residents from the rest of the island.
» Heavy rains overloaded Honolulu's sewer system, breaking a main line in Waikiki on March 24 and sending 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the Ala Wai Canal and along the Waikiki shoreline.
» Another hours-long thunderstorm Friday on Oahu flooded out numerous Honolulu residents and businesses, including Kahala Mall, which is expected to open today.
» A small tornado touched down on Lanai March 23, damaging a construction office trailer and lifting two others off their foundations at Kaumalapau Harbor.
» Countless isle homes and businesses have been damaged and flooded over the six weeks, with Oahu and Kauai bearing the brunt.
The cleanup continued yesterday throughout Oahu.
The right makai-bound lane of Kailua Road below Castle Junction was closed last night by the state Department of Transportation because of concern about overhanging rocks. The area had three landslides in the past month. Officials are assessing how to shore up the area.
In Maunalaha Valley near Round Top Drive, Hawaii National Guard soldiers helped residents protect their properties in case another big rainstorm comes down and causes more landslides.
Soldiers put temporary plastic barricades near the mountainside in the valley to prevent more mud from covering cars and homes. They were also on Round Top Drive, overlooking the valley, and placing sandbags there to prevent water from flowing down the side again.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
A landslide on Round Top Drive blanketed the roadway yesterday and buried traffic barriers.
About six feet of mud fell during a landslide Friday, entrapping cars and trucks and almost reaching the windows of some homes. Friends and family, along with heavy equipment from the city, helped to dig residents out over the weekend.
"We had some good news from an engineer. He said the hill will be shifting and adjusting, but he told me not to worry ... but if there's a big rain, we should leave," said resident Sally Moses, who praised the "fabulous job" that the soldiers have done.
Maunalaha resident Leinaala Lopes said, "We're OK, but I'm not bringing my family back here yet. ... My grandchildren are staying at the hotel."
Lopes said she wonders who will fix the valley's only road, which was partially washed out by the rain and landslide.
"It's very dangerous; we have a big puka on the side of the road," she said. "And we don't know who will fix it, because this is state land but that's a city road."
City spokesman Bill Brennan said the city is responsible for the road even though the dirt fell from state land. However, he added that city road crews were busy with other streets and would get to Maunalaha Road as soon as they could.
"They've been working for a month straight," Brennan said.
In Waimanalo, state officials were still evaluating the Kailua Reservoir, which was back to empty yesterday, according to Department of Agriculture Chairwoman Sandra Kunimoto. More than 30 people evacuated from homes downslope from the reservoir when Sunday rainfall filled it and overflowed.
The reservoir has not been in use since 1993 when the new Waimanalo Reservoir was opened, Kunimoto said.
"Everybody's first concern is public safety," she said after an afternoon meeting in which several agencies shared information. Besides the state Land and Agriculture departments, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, U.S. Geological Survey, state and Oahu Civil Defense agencies are analyzing trouble spots, she said.
Resident Kim Kalama, whose home is below the reservoir's rock wall dam, was not satisfied with the state's initial assessment. "They have no responses right now, and I'm not too happy with that," said Kalama. "The state told us they will be making the decisions alone. I don't think it's right that the community won't have a say.
"They went ahead and did some stupid things up there before. They cut off the main overflow plug so it supposedly runs freely, but debris blocks the spillway. My husband clears it. I never saw anyone up here to clean debris," said Kalama. "It used to be a simple fix in the past, just opening a gate."
A DLNR spokesman also said crews from the agency and National Guard soldiers completed removing flooding debris from two private properties on Puuhonua Street in Manoa and erected temporary retaining barriers on Booth Road in Pauoa Valley where rock- and mudslides flowed into private property.
Star-Bulletin reporters Mary Adamski, Nelson Daranciang and Rod Antone contributed to this report.
Horses need dry dirt to keep rain-soaked hooves healthy
WANTED: free dirt for horses.
With all the landslides on Oahu, horse owner Christy Tseu says there is no need for homeowners on Tantalus or anywhere else to dump truckloads into landfills.
Tseu, who owns two horses boarded at Waiawa Ranch, says with all the rain, the horses there are standing in muddy puddles, which can be dangerous for them.
"It's bad for horses to have wet feet," Tseu said.
Horses, she said, are susceptible to thrush, a fungus, which can be life-threatening.
"We need lots of dirt. All the ranches, I bet, throughout the island need dirt," Tseu said, as long as it is not contaminated by hazardous materials such as glass or chemicals.
About 23 horses are boarded at the ranch and riding arena.
"Some have been living in wet conditions for over 40 days now," she said.
Waiawa is a rustic ranch, and boarders make repairs to the corrugated metal roofs over the stalls using whatever recycled or donated materials they can scrounge, Tseu said.
Tseu and her husband were helping to repair a nearby stall's roof, which had collapsed because of the heavy rains. They covered their horse stalls' roofs with a 30-by-40-foot tarpaulin, the cheapest way to go, she said.
In the meantime they apply copper naphthenate under their horses' hooves to kill any bacteria from feces and urine they step in and to create a water-resistant barrier from the moisture.
The Tseus spend about $400 to $500 a month on their horses, and dirt is not cheap, she said.
The horses "mean everything to me," she said. "They are my life."
Anyone with extra dirt they want hauled away can call Tseu at 722-6438.