The Hawaii Department of Transportation said it is joining forces with other state, county and federal agencies to clear and repair sections of the Kuhio Highway between Lumahai and Wainiha on Kauai Island’s North Shore after what was reported as “historic rainfall” triggered flooding and mudslides.
The well-traveled highway is a two-lane road with a number of one-lane bridges, so that slides can easily halt traffic in each direction. It is also the only road serving some areas.
The National Weather Service said more than 30 inches of rain fell in the area during the mid-month storm, with the most intense downpour totaling 32.35 inches of rain in Wainiha in the 24 hours starting at 2 a.m. April 14.
“Damage is very extensive in this area,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement, adding that “the immediate problem is access [because] several landslides are blocking roads into the communities.”
Ige toured the storm-disrupted areas of Kauai by helicopter, and noted that air transport was the only way in or out of several of the affected areas for state and county teams working to reopen damaged roads.
HDOT said some of its crews from Kauai, Oahu and Maui traveled into the stricken North Shore region by helicopter and boat, and others hiked in to assist recovery efforts. It noted that a damage assessment by those teams confirmed “multiple landslides” hit the Kuhio Highway and that two areas of the road suffered structural damage that would require repairs.
HDOT said its response plan for those two damaged road sections – one in Waikoko and the other in Wainiha – was initially to provide enough access for emergency crews moving into the flooded areas. Once that could be done, HDOT said its crews would work to restore the entire width of Kuhio Highway.
The agency said it was also working with contractors in the Wainiha area to start clearing debris, as six large landslides plus six smaller ones pushed thousands of pounds of mud, trees and other material onto the roadways, blocking vehicle traffic.
Once that debris could be cleared and the slopes along the lanes inspected and stabilized, along with any needed structural repairs, it said the highway would be reopened for regular use.
Because of the terrain and various load-restricted bridges along the route, the department explained that it had to use smaller trucks for recovery operations. However, it said it was also “exploring options” to improve the infrastructure so that larger vehicles could enter the area and help speed recovery efforts.
Facing all those challenges, HDOT said that as of April 17 it had not established a “definitive timeframe” for reopening the road. “It will take time to provide emergency and full access to the highway,” the agency said, “especially if more wet weather passes over the island” in the meantime.
Above: Gov. Ige (left) views flood damage from helicopter. Photo / Governor’s office
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