Rain, rockfalls, quakes -- oh, my!
Hawaii has seen a good share of nature's forces in recent weeks.
WINDWARD Oahu commuters who usually drive the partially closed Pali Highway ought to count their blessings because unlike residents of an isolated section of East Maui, they have three other routes to take them between town and home.
Nature has dealt a double dose of misery to people who live in the Kaupo-Kipahulu area. Last month's earthquake coupled with heavy rains badly damaged a bridge and destabilized cliffs along their single coastal road. Then bad weather yesterday forced the National Guard to cancel a helicopter drop of food and fuel for an estimated 340 residents there.
Continuous rainfall apparently caused the landslide that closed the Pali tunnels Wednesday, but state transportation officials and employees have worked steadily to keep traffic moving as best they can while they clear tons of mud, fallen trees and rocks. It appears officials have learned a lesson since September, when a collapsed pedestrian overpass on the H-1 freeway touched off a massive traffic jam that lasted from early afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning.
Officials say landslides are unusual on the town side of the tunnels, and there has been speculation that the Oct. 15 earthquake may have had an effect on the stability of the sharp peaks through which the highway runs. But it is just as likely that the natural process of erosion loosened the mountain range's soil and rocks.
Rockfalls and mudslides have become more common on Oahu, but that is the result of building in areas where the risks are greater, and it appears government officials are more aware of the hazards.
The city this week turned away a plan for housing project on a hillside in Aina Haina, citing uncertainties about drainage, rockfalls and stability of the sloping property. It was a sensible decision because as much as humans try to control their environment, nature eventually takes its course.
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