Oahu flood victims face daunting repairs


POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

As Bill Ah Sue, a police officer in Kaneohe, responded to calls for help with last week's downpour, his own house in Laie was slowly filling with muddy water.






        » Owners of Oahu properties damaged by recent flooding can apply for property-tax relief. For information, call 768-3799 or find the application form at http://www.realpropertyhonolulu.com.


» The state Tax Department will consider requests by affected individuals and businesses for extensions to file and pay taxes. Tax forms and information are available at www.hawaii.gov/tax. Taxpayers can also call 587-4242 or (800) 222-3229.



By the time Ah Sue returned home in the afternoon, it was too late. Everything on the first floor of his home—furniture, kids' drawings and photo albums—was destroyed from flooding in one of the worst deluges this year.

“;Everything happened so fast,”; said Ah Sue, 48, in a barren kitchen with no refrigerator or dining table. “;It wasn't like we had a lot of warning that we could have prepared for.”;

Slowly and uncertainly, residents in Laie—one of the hardest-hit areas on Oahu from Thursday's storm—are rebuilding their homes.

Soaked, ruined furniture lines the streets. Residents who were spared major damage bring less fortunate neighbors home-cooked meals.

As affected residents clean up their homes, they fear the wrath of future heavy rain.

“;We wanted to renovate the house,”; said Ah Sue, who has experienced flooding in his house before. “;But now I'm thinking, Should I move?”;

Tyco and Keala Noel are considering relocating after the rain destroyed their cabin in a remote area behind the local Cackle Fresh Egg Farm Outlet on Kamehameha Highway.

On the morning of the heavy rain, the couple had to be rescued by fire officials using kayaks. Five others living in the same compound also were rescued.

The couple, which recently moved from the Big Island, lost everything, from clothes to computers. They are staying at one of the two shelters kept open by the state chapter of the American Red Cross at Brigham Young University-Hawaii's gymnasium in Laie.

The other remaining open is Waianae District Park, another heavily affected area. The Red Cross plans to send volunteers today to interview North Shore residents affected by the storm.

“;It was frightening,”; said Keala Noel, 55, who was wearing a faded black shirt and black pants, clothes from the shelter. “;We're applying for money from the Red Cross and (Federal Emergency Management Agency), and hopefully we get some so we can rebuild these homes and raise them up.”;

Other residents are relying on their insurance to help rebuild.

Rachel Johnson, 25, said it could take up to a month before her family receives the thousands of dollars needed to replace the damaged walls and carpet in her house.

Many residents interviewed yesterday blamed the flooding on Hawaii Reserves Inc., a land management company in Laie. The company has a building project that the residents said disrupted the town's drainage system. Company officials disputed that, saying the drainage system could not handle the heavy rain, much like other parts of the island.

“;It (the drainage system) is probably in the best condition it's been in as far as drainage systems go in Laie,”; said R. Eric Beaver, HRI's president and chief executive officer. “;What we had was what I hope was an unusual storm event. We obviously weren't the only part of the island that had flooding.”;