South Kona digs out from deluge
SOUTH KONA, Hawaii » Ken Verosco has rocks piled six feet high in his South Kona Fruit Stand and more bulging out the front of the building, carried there by Wednesday's floodwaters.
More than just a fruit stand, the business facing Mamalahoa Highway was a restaurant with 10 tables serving sandwiches and exotic fruit smoothies. "We just put in a new certified kitchen," Verosco said. The freezer was "tossed around" by the water, he said.
"We're wiped out," said Verosco, who has no insurance. "I'm just in shock."
County, state and federal officials were just beginning the process yesterday of assessing the damage, which extended from Kiilae and Honaunau 10 miles north to Kealakekua.
The county housing agency was checking businesses, the Red Cross was checking houses and the Federal Farm Service Agency was checking agricultural areas, said Duane Hosaka, of county Civil Defense. Some information might not be available until Tuesday, he said. County and state road agencies were checking highways.
Kealakekua got 7.5 inches of rain in four hours, said Rick Robinson, of the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District.
"My neighbor's mac nut orchard is now down on my property," he said.
Kona has a "young geology," he said, meaning streams have not had time to cut well-defined channels.
Verosco had manicured his six acres, using a lawnmower to keep the area under his fruit trees looking good. But there is a gulch above the fruit stand, Verosco said. It overran its banks.
The overflow carved ruts through his fields, exposing the roots of his trees. "It looks like the moon up there," he said.
William Enos' car rolled over and over down the hillside and landed on the highway looking like it had been in a collision.
Below the highway, flood waters filled with 6-inch-diameter rocks surrounded Jack Turner's car, leaving it buried above its bumpers.
Up to 24 inches of water and rock flowed through the ground floor of his house, Turner said. He gathered his wife, mother, three dogs and two parrots and sat out in his neighbor's field with them while the impromptu river roared but barely a drizzle of rain fell. His two cats turned up safe later.
Yesterday 20 people, some he barely knew, shoveled the mess out of his house.
The old Manago Hotel, with its wooden floored lobby right at street level, was flooded in the afternoon, but employees managed to clean it by late Wednesday night, said hotel employee Cathy Shiroma.
The Kona Community Hospital had a much bigger problem: no water until 9 p.m. Wednesday, followed by low water pressure all of yesterday, said spokeswoman Emily Mendez-Bryant. Lightning had hit pumps at one of two wells serving the area, she said.
The hospital placed portable toilets in the parking lot for employees, and employees carried buckets of water from a tanker truck to flush toilets in patients' rooms, she said. Staff and patients drank bottled water.
Elective surgery was canceled, but a mother gave birth to twins without incident, Mendez-Bryant said.