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Saturday, November 4, 2000

Big Isle flood damage estimated at $20 million; areas isolated

The governor declares a state
of emergency for the Big Island
and Maui a disaster area

By Rod Thompson

HILO -- In addition to $20 million in damage to Big Island bridges, roads, homes and businesses, this week's flooding could mean snarled traffic and isolated communities for a month.

Mayor Stephen Yamashiro and Gov. Ben Cayetano have declared a state of emergency for the entire island. The governor also declared Maui a disaster area and said officials from state Civil Defense and Federal Emergency Management Administration will make assessments on the Big Island to determine if federal funds will be made available.

Yamashiro put initial damage estimates at $10.5 million to private property and $8.4 million to public facilities. He added that the total will likely rise to $20 million.

Damaged bridges restrict traffic

Civil Defense Deputy Bruce Butts said 77 businesses and as many as 300 homes were damaged.

At Pahala in the Kau District, two bridges on the Hawaii Belt Road were severely damaged, he said. Traffic can now go only to Kona.

Kapapala Ranch owner Gordon Cran said remote Wood Valley is also isolated from Pahala by a bridge washout. Cran bulldozed a temporary road across his land so residents can get to the highway.

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
Artist Regie Koyama, of the Hawaiian Arts T-shirt store, sits
in his downtown Hilo office looking at water-soaked art
books and documents. Koyama had built his design
collection for 35 years. He says just one of his
art books is valued at $90.

In Hilo, a culvert underneath Komohana Street washed away. "This is really major," Butts said.

Repairs in both Hilo and Kau could take a month, he said.

Kamehameha Avenue, still covered with slick mud, remained closed yesterday but might open today, he said.

A flood control project done in 1996-97 deliberately dumps flooding onto Kamehameha Avenue. Yamashiro said extending the project to the bay would have required two more bridges with no federal money to pay for them.

With Kamehameha and Komohana closed, traffic in the downtown Hilo area turned bumper-to-bumper yesterday, moving at a crawl.

Yamashiro said he was happy that it was moving at all.

Some lose food, art collections

He said several more flood control project are planned, but they may cost $15 million each.

In his downtown Hilo office attached to the Hawaiian Arts T-shirt store, artist Regie Koyama had his mind on a smaller sum: $90. That's the value of just one of his art books that was destroyed when 27 inches of water flowed into his office.

Koyama had been collecting books, art clippings and other objects to help in designing T-shirts and other art for 35 years. Much of it was destroyed.

An inlet to an underground drain is right outside his doorway. He said the owner of his building tried to control the flooding with sandbags. When the street was filled with two feet of water, it came into the shop anyway.

By Rod Thompson, Star-Bulletin
Leslie Miki, owner of Abundant Life Wholefoods and Deli in
downtown Hilo, stands by a flatbed truck loaded with food
destroyed by flooding. She says her mainland insurance agent
told her to save it for evidence of damage, but the
spoiled food was attracting flies.

"The sad thing is that some people have greater losses than myself," he said.

At Abundant Life Wholefoods and Deli, owner Leslie Miki was ready to haul off a flatbed truck full of spoiled food.

Her mainland insurance agent told her to save it for evidence of damage, but the food was already drawing flies. "I told him it's a health hazard," she said.

Her Hawaii insurance agent told her to throw it out.

Undaunted by floods and insurance hassles, Miki said the 23rd anniversary celebration of her store would take place today as planned.


A number of agencies are offering help for victims of this week's flooding on the Big Island.

Bullet State Insurance Commissioner Wayne Metcalf has urged insurance companies to "redouble their efforts" for policy holders. But he also warned that basic homeowner's policies often don't cover flooding.

Bullet Bank of Hawaii has announced an emergency, low-interest loan program for flood victims. Individuals and businesses are eligible, whether currently a customer of the bank or not.

Bullet The Salvation Army in Hilo has asked for public donations of food, clothing and money for flood victims. Call 935-1277 in Hilo or 440-1830 in Honolulu.

Bullet The American Red Cross will set up a Family Assistance Center for flood victims tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Civic Auditorium. The center will be open at least one week.

E-mail to City Desk

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