Sione Galvez stood by one of the rocks that fell in front of his Lalea townhouse on Hawaii Kai Drive. One rock smashed a window in his home while others damaged cars, at left. The branches fell from the hillside next to his home.

Boulder dash

Rocks crash into a Hawaii Kai home and
cars, while Makapuu rubble closes the road
Workers are clearing the debris and hope
Kalanianaole can be reopened today

By Gregg K. Kakesako and Craig Gima |

Kalanianaole Highway near Makapuu was still closed this morning and East Oahu residents remained leery after heavy rain yesterday sent boulders crashing into the roadway and into a Hawaii Kai couple's condo and cars.

Mark Okabe, Oahu district engineer, today said state transportation crews hope to clean up the area enough to reopen the road by noon.

"If it rains, we will shut it down again," Okabe said.

The state sent a Department of Transportation crew this morning to clean up the area and clear it of any loose rocks that were jarred by yesterday's heavy rain. About 1.5 inches of rain fell in East Honolulu, the National Weather Service reported. The rain sent about five basketball-size rocks onto the Kalanianaole Highway.

Okabe said state transportation workers will monitor the area throughout the weekend.

A week ago a falling rock struck a passing car, shattering its windshield.

The project's subcontractor warned motorists not to drive in the area during or after heavy rain until work on a safety fence was completed. That work is scheduled to begin Dec. 9 and be completed just before Christmas.

But the latest Makapuu incident will not deter efforts of bringing back tourists and kamaaina to Waimanalo tomorrow and Sunday with an open-air market and concert at the Waimanalo Polo Field, according to city officials.

Carol Costa, city spokeswoman, said organizers had planned for emergencies even if only one lane of Kalanianaole Highway was open or if people had to drive through the Pali to get to the events. A free concert and several concession operations have been scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Kailua police Sgt. Tim Quinata said last night said the highway was closed as a precaution. "We're not sure if anything else is going to come down."

Police established a roadblock last night at Makapuu, turning back cars because of falling rocks.

Quinata said police received a call from a motorist who noticed the rocks on the road at about 5:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, Sione Galvez, 46, and his wife Tracy, 40, who live in Kamilonui Valley below Mariner's Ridge in Hawaii Kai, were having Thanksgiving dinner when they heard rumbling and a smashing sound around 8 p.m.

Although their condo at 7168 Hawaii Kai Dr. was not in the path of giant boulders that tumbled down the hill behind their Hawaii Kai townhouse, the rocks landed on their two parked cars.

"Whatever it was, we knew it was from the outside" of the couple's home, Galvez said.

Friends' children who were in an upstairs bedroom came down and reported to the adults that someone had thrown a rock through the bedroom window.

"We ran outside, and what happened was these gigantic boulders came down and smashed our cars," Galvez said.

"It was really dark. It looked like two gigantic boulders, but actually we don't know if it's one gigantic boulder that broke in two or two giant boulders. But they landed on our cars parked right in the front (of the townhouse.)"

The couple's 2001 model Lexus GS430 and 1999 Honda CRV sports utility vehicle, parked in their assigned stalls, were destroyed.

Fire Capt. Richard Soo estimated one boulder to be about 4 feet by 6 feet and weighing about five tons, and another about 4 feet by 4 feet.

Two hours after the incident, Galvez said he still did not know what to make of the situation. "I am still shattered and in shock.

"All I can say is we have something to be thankful about. Fortunately nobody got hurt; that's what we have to be thankful about. I guess we'll just have to take one step at a time. The next thing is to call our insurance company and go from there."

The couple has lived at the townhouse complex below Mariner's Ridge for four years and before last night had no apprehension about falling rocks.

Soo said numerous boulders fell during rainy weather last night, but no one was injured.

Soo said one of the boulders was bigger than the one that crashed into a Nuuanu home in August, killing 26-year-old Dara Rei Onishi. "It's as big as a small SUV (sport utility vehicle)," Soo said.

Damage to the townhouse was limited to broken glass and the air-conditioning unit. Soo said he did not have an estimate of the damage to the cars.

Numerous motorists were forced to take alternate routes.

"We are about three minutes from home, and we have to go all the way around," said Scott MacDonald, who was trying to reach his Hawaii Kai home from Waimanalo.

MacDonald and his wife, Jacquie, reached the Windward closure, which was just past Sea Life Park, about 8:30 p.m. and had to turn around to take the long way home.

Kalanianaole Highway had been closed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. since Nov. 6 while workers with Royal Contracting Co. Ltd. removed dangerous rocks from the cliff face.

Royal Contracting Co. Ltd. has a $1.3 million contract with the state Transportation Department to make the highway safer. The work originally was scheduled for February but was moved up after an Oct. 15 rockslide closed the highway for 13 hours.

Businesses in Waimanalo dependent on tourists laid off workers because of a decrease in business during the highway closure.

Star-Bulletin reporter Suzanne Tswei contributed to this story.

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