Waimanalo hoping
for a sunny
shopping weekend

Boulders worry Hawaii Kai residents

By Leila Fujimori

Waimanalo business picked up yesterday after the noon reopening of Kalanianaole Highway near Makapuu.

The business owners were hopeful that the sun would shine again through the weekend after weathering weeks of dramatically reduced business due to work to remove dangerous rock from the Makapuu cliff since Nov. 6.

The community is holding a concert and craft fair this weekend in an effort to woo people back to Waimanalo.

The highway was shut down Thanksgiving evening after heavy rain caused about five basketball-size rocks to fall across the highway.

Toni Blanchard, owner of Point Break surf shop in Waimanalo, said, "If it rains like that, more are going to fall, but it looks pretty nice tonight."

The state Department of Transportation is monitoring the situation through the weekend and may shut down the highway again if it rains.

The closing on Thanksgiving came just after a temporary reopening of the highway at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Royal Contracting Co. has a $1.3 million contract with the state to clear the hillside of rocks after an Oct. 15 rockslide.

Martin Okabe, Oahu district engineer with the Department of Transportation, said the highway is to remain open until Dec. 8, weather permitting.

"We've taken all the major boulders and a lot of loose material. We're advising motorists to be careful when there's rain," he said.

The state is having wire mesh -- made of a thick chain-link-style PVC-coated material -- installed Dec. 16-20, and one lane of the highway will be closed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

From Dec. 9 to 13, a helicopter will take the material onto the slopes, causing 20-minute closures alternating with 20 minutes of traffic flow in both directions.

"Weather permitting, we'll stay on schedule," he said. "Hopefully we finish by the week of Dec. 16."

"The first couple weeks of the road closure, it was like a ghost town, at about 20 percent of our business." said Patrick Ching, owner of Naturally Hawaiian Gallery & Gifts.

But when the road reopened yesterday, business came back.

"We rented out some boards and it looks really good. It was kind of spooky. The morning started off bad, but we're excited about the concert this weekend," said Tina Alconcel, who has helped Blanchard at Point Break since the original road closure.

The "Rock Waimanalo" free event features arts and crafts, food, entertainment and a raffle at Honolulu Polo Club's Waimanalo field. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today and tomorrow. More events are planned for next Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 14-15. The Dec. 14 event will be at Waimanalo District Park.

"I've already lost Christmas with the road closure," Blanchard said. "I couldn't order (merchandise) for Christmas, so I'll have to make do with what I have. I'm so behind in bills."

She hopes that the weather will remain good at least for another week until the state's contractor puts up a protective wire mesh.

E-mail to City Desk


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