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Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Prospects bleak
for quick reopening
of Waimea road

A makeshift bypass, or even
a walkway, might not be feasible
due to the instability of
rocks above the road

Emergency services in good shape
Coping with long drives, scary walks

By Gregg K. Kakesako
and Mary Adamski


Demolition experts and military engineers today were working on ways to reopen a part of Kamehameha Highway, closed by a Waimea Bay rockslide early Monday, that has inconvenienced residents and caused an economic slowdown for North Shore businesses.

Last night, state Civil Defense officials asked the U.S. Army Garrison, Hawaii, if military engineers could provide bridging or metal matting material to build a temporary bypass road or walkway.

That's because state transportation director Kazu Hayashida believes that reopening even one lane of Kamehameha Highway past the site of the rockslide won't happen soon because of safety concerns.

But, Capt. Rich Spiegel, spokesman for the 25th Division, said Army officials aren't sure if such a proposal is "practical, engineering wise" and whether the Army here had the resources to build a temporary road.

"The request is to build a bypass road on the beach," Spiegel said.

State Civil Defense spokeswoman Barbara Hendrie said the state is looking for "the best solution that would hold up conservatively for several months."

"It definitely will be a tough call," Hendrie said. "There are some liability issues because we are not out of the window of high surf ... There is the bay to consider, which is affected by storm conditions.

"It is not just a clear path of sand to walk or drive on."

The high-surf winter storm season generally runs through March.

State officials also have considered using explosives as the quickest method of bringing down overhanging rocks.

Officials don't believe the Puu O Makuha Heiau at Pupukea, located above the rockslide, would be affected by the proposed demolition, Hendrie said.

The state took road construction engineers and consulting geologists to the top of the cliff yesterday to assess the stability of the 150-yard-wide expanse.

"They found that the dangerous situation was much greater than just one piece of rock we had mentioned yesterday," Hayashida said. "Because of that, the fix will be a lot more extensive and will probably take a lot more time."

State Highways Administrator Pericles Manthos said baseball-sized rocks rained down during the inspection and, "based on seeing rock actively falling, with the amount of rock that's loose up there, we really cannot open a lane at all."

The top 20 feet of rocky overhang is the target for removal.

"The top escarpment is made of weathered volcanic materials, trees have grown in among rocks, we have rocks moving," Manthos said. "We need to peel back that weathered layer to get to some solid rocks."

Officials expect to have a plan by the end of the week and have set briefing meetings with North Shore residents tomorrow night and next week.

Blasting is just one of the options.

"Some contractors might go in and blast and take it down quickly, but we don't know," Manthos said. "When you blast, you have to look at what vibration does to the rest of the rock. There are homes nearby, so we may have to go with a slower method because of safety."

Other methods might be using expanding concrete, or water blasting.

"If we can do it quickly, we will. But we are trying to be realistic with the schedule," he said.

Pressed to estimate how long the project might take, Manthos said officials won't know "until we start banging on the rock, so to speak, to see how loose it is or how tight it is."

Hayashida said the state looked into detouring traffic onto former sugar plantation or military dirt roads mauka of the bay, but the tracks are not usable for anything but rough terrain vehicles.

"It's not good news," he said of the prospect of a long-term road closure. "But it's not whether it will come down, but when it will come down. In the longer term, people will have a safer road in that area."

Meanwhile, generators and lights were installed last night to illuminate the footpath residents use across Waimea Beach Park.

Police were asked to cut people parking cars above the bay some slack, but some have been ticketed or towed because they blocked access for buses or emergency vehicles.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
These private contractors, (who declined to be identified), along
with state officials, looked at the site of the Waimea Bay rockslide
yesterday for about an hour and a half.

Emergency services
in good shape

By Helen Altonn


The rockslide closing Kamehameha Highway has disrupted North Shore schools and businesses but emergency services aren't expected to be affected.

The Sunset Beach fire station is across from Pupukea Foodland and the Waialua station is next to Haleiwa Beach Center where "Baywatch" is filmed, Fire Capt. Richard Soo pointed out.

"So the break of Kam Highway for fire coverage couldn't happen at a better place," he said. "It's smack dab at the middle of coverage for both fire stations."

Fire trucks also will be allowed to use the road in a true emergency, he said.

State Medical Services Director Donna Maiava said the rockslide hampers the ability of ambulances to transport patients from the Sunset Beach area to Wahiawa General Hospital.

Bus service changes

The city has adjusted bus service to residents on both sides of the Waimea Bay highway closure.

The Kaneohe Circle Island Route 55 will turn around at the Turtle Bay Hilton. Two shuttle buses will take riders between the resort and the Pupukea Fire Station every 30 minutes between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The Wahiawa Circle Island Route 52 will turn around at Waimea Bay Beach Park. It will wait there for passengers who walk through the beach from the Pupukea side.

Express Bus 88A has been split into two routes, heading to the North Shore via Wahiawa and the Windward side.

But Kahuku Hospital is available, she said, "and we can always use the military helicopter to transport critical patients into Honolulu."

It's a big inconvenience for the post office, but the mail is being delivered, said Felice Broglio, manager of communications for Honolulu Post Office.

She said the Haleiwa Post Office services nearly three rural routes from Kawela Bay to Waimea.

Two of the rural route carriers live in the Sunset Beach area, she said, "so they're part of the community being inconvenienced."

They're driving around the island now to Haleiwa, spending a few hours sorting the mail according to the routes, then heading back around the island to deliver in the Sunset area, she said. When that's done, they take mail collected to the Kahuku Post Office.

Deanne Daves, in customer service at the Haleiwa Super Market-IGA, said business has slowed because people from Pupukea and the North Shore side don't want to carry groceries across the sand, she said. "Even myself, I live in Pupukea and I have to shop at Foodland. It's more convenient right now."

Darlene Pololu, shift manager at Pizza Hut, Haleiwa, said customers have decreased there and at other restaurants and grocery stores in the area.

The Sunset Beach side has a lot of surfers and Pizza Hut is one of the restaurants in Haleiwa open later than 9 p.m., she said.

Deliveries can be made up to Waimea Bay, she said, "but half of our workers live past Waimea. So they have to trot over the sand or commute around the island or stay with friends on this side of the island."

Lisa DeLong, Kahuku High and Intermediate School principal, said about 55 of the 1,950 students called in today for homework. It will be taken to Waialua High and Intermediate School for them to pick up tomorrow, she said.

"People have really come forward to help all around," she said. "We're telling students, "you'll have stories to tell your grandchildren.'"

With a longer delay, however, she said, "we're really going to have to look at how to get our students instruction who aren't making it across."

Roberts Hawaii was back up to eight circle-island tour buses yesterday, after dropping to four Monday, but it has modified the tour, marketing consultant Sam Shenkus said.

"We miss about one-third of the tour but a lot of people have a full day planned and they're happy with that," she said.

Diane Castro, director of operations at Polynesian Adventure Tours, Inc., said it was experimenting today with a plan to get people around the island.

If the driver feels it's feasible, the group will be deposited to walk about 20 minutes across the Waimea beach to board another bus, she said.

If the driver feels some of the passengers can't make the walk, she said, "We'll go to Plan B. We need to be flexible in this industry."

Her husband, the company's safety officer, went to the beach yesterday to take a look and "it was very enjoyable for him," she said. If the passengers like it, she said, "We may have a new tour --walking along Waimea Beach."

Workers, students brave|
long drives, and dark
‘scary’ walks

By Pat Gee


For the first time in 27 years at the Turtle Bay Beach and Tennis Resort, Virgie Guerrero went to work with sand in her shoes and a broken flashlight.

Because of the closure of Kamehameha Highway at Waimea Bay after Monday's rock slide, Guerrero had to leave home at 5 a.m. to walk from the Haleiwa side of the bay across the beach.

"There's no light on the sand, and it's dark!" she said, adding that her flashlight died on her.

And after being on her feet all day, "now I have to walk back" home after catching a bus, Guerrero complained.

Footprints in the sand are evidence that many people are adjusting to the road closure by walking, then taking a shuttle bus, or making arrangements with family or friends on the other side to get them where they need to go.

John Elford, Turtle Bay Hilton manager, said his "employees have adapted very well" to the situation. No employees were absent the second day of the roadblock, down from "less than half a dozen the first day," he said.

The hotel has offered free overnight stays for employees who are reluctant to make the long drive home late at night and for those on the graveyard shift, Elford said.

At Sunset Beach Elementary School, 38 children were absent yesterday, said acting secretary Ruth Webster. Rather than "going up and around, some teachers are starting to walk in their bare feet, and it's very, very dark in the morning and night," Webster said.

Frances Hoapili, who works at the Kawamata Brothers Shell Station in Haleiwa, said the situation has been "very bad" since the road closure.

She said one man bought $45 worth of gas for his six-wheel truck, saying it was "ridiculous to go around the island to come here and do business. All his business transaction is in town.

She said she's worried about her son, who attends Kahuku High, "because we live in Mokuleia, having to go backward and make sure their rides meet up with rides on the other side, if there is any."

Hoapili said a friend drove her son to school yesterday with her children -- "two hours in and two hours out. They left home at 6 and came home at 5. It was a little too much." She and her friend kept their children home today, she said.

Noe Kamakeeaina, who works in the business office at Kahuku Hospital, said the darkness of the beach is unsafe and "scary" for employees to walk the bay.

Wayne Fairchild, hospital administrator, said only a few employees "haven't been able to make it in ... but we're still fully staffed, and the quality of service has not changed."

"But instead of a 30-minute drive, now it's a two-hour drive to work," he said. That's also what Mike Steinhoff, a deliveryman for Bavaria Holland Beer, found out.

"I'm going all the way around the island. I left Haleiwa at 10:15 a.m. and arrived here (the Sunset Beach Foodland) at 11:45," he said, remarking that he was two hours behind schedule.

After work, Fairchild has to deal with the road closure again. His wife, Dara, is a member of the North Shore Canoe Club, and Fairchild was going to help shuttle crew members to and from their practices in Haleiwa Bay.

Reporter Helen Altonn contributed to this story.

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