Water flows as city-built levee breaks


POSTED: Friday, December 12, 2008

Ulysses Sarmines had a new front door at his Makaha home yesterday.

It floated into his yard.

“;This is not my door,”; said the 41-year-old teacher, pointing to a once-white door caked in mud. “;I don't know whose door this is.”;

Scores of similar rude awakenings resulted from yesterday's downpour.

“;Guess we got a big mess to clean up,”; said 46-year-old Dean Tabangcura, standing in the knee-high waters of his driveway.

Tabangcura's family woke up at about 3 a.m. as the water began to seep into their home.

They tried putting items on the beds, but the water level rose past that. Nearly everything in the house is ruined.

“;Wee hoo, I'm glad to be getting out of there,”; said 31-year-old Mike Eli as he tiptoed through knee-high water in the front yard of his sister's Farrington Highway home.

Eli said the water was chest high in the home, and he came to check up on his sister. He and his roommates had to break down a rock wall in front of his yard to drain the water.

At about 2 a.m. the homeless at Keaau Beach Park moved to the driest area, the public restroom.

Most of the tarp from 51-year-old Douglas Huntzinger's makeshift home was blown into the ocean. He spent the morning picking up his belongings across the beach.

“;It's remodeling, nature style,”; said the five-year beach park resident. “;This is the worst it's been in a long time.”;

Jonathan Auala, who is paralyzed, was sleeping on a couch on the beach when the wind blew his resting place over at about 1:30 a.m. He yelled for help, and other beach residents helped him into his wheelchair and brought him to the restrooms.

“;I don't think anyone was expecting it to be this bad,”; he said.

In Waianae Valley, Monique De Ocampo was worried she was going to lose her entire home, which houses her boyfriend and sons, 14 and 16.

She lives near the bridge on Puuhulu Road. Although the stream bed there is dry most of the year, it fills up quickly because of a privately built road that blocks access for flowage.

A city-built levee usually prevents water from flowing into several back yards along the road. Usually - until yesterday, when the levee broke, forming a stream of brown several yards wide.

“;I've been dreading something like this for a long time,”; said Virgil Haynes, 74. “;My garden is gone and I lost my beehives.”;

De Ocampo said that because of the levee and the stoppage from the private road, the stream forms a whirlpool that begins to erode the soil under her home. She said her family is scared that they will lose their home, and she is unsure of insurance coverage.

About a third of the Waianae Small Boat Harbor was closed and evacuated yesterday morning when a propane tank the size of a small pickup floated about 100 yards southeast of the harbor. The tank was battered against the reef until it was punctured and sank about 25 feet into the water, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Harbor staff also pumped water from five vessels in the harbor to keep them from sinking.