Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022|
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“I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Standing at the bottom of Keakealani Drive the morning after flash floods swept through Kailua-Kona, Charlie Clark surveyed a foot of mud in the street and the lineup of sandbags that he and neighbors had hastily assembled Tuesday night. The damage was caused by just one of a series of flash floods unfolding this week as downpours overwhelm saturated soils and send torrents of muddy rainwater from mauka regions.
Clark has lived in Kailua-Kona nearly 30 years, but this summer’s half dozen floods through the Kuakani Makai subdivision have been the worst he’s seen. The bags helped keep the water out of two neighboring residences on Tuesday, but up on Kuakini Highway, a fast-moving river obliterated more than a week’s work by county crews to fix damage from the last flash flood on Sept. 4 just south of Walua Road.
The Department of Public Works had been prepared to lay asphalt to seal up the repairs. Wednesday, that same shoulder was gullied and pitted down to bare lava rock, a water main exposed, all traces of work effort vanished.
On Plumeria Road in the Alii Kai subdivision, trouble hit close to home for Nat and Sheryl Giesbrecht on Tuesday evening. A brown line on the walls two feet off the floor marked the height of waters that flowed into the home from an overfull Holualoa Horseshoe floodway. The entire house, garage and swimming pool were layered in mud.
“I’m not sure what we’re going to do,” said Nat Giesbrecht, stepping on soaked carpets Wednesday morning.
He and his wife bought the home in July of 2014 and were not able to get flood insurance. The bedroom of the residence flooded on Sept. 4.
When the second wave of brown water arrived Tuesday around 6 p.m., the Giesbrechts grabbed whatever belongings they could and got out.
“We’ve been fixing the place up, now it looks like we’re going to have to fix it again,” Giesbrecht said.
By Wednesday evening, Sheryl Giesbrecht reported that a foot of water was flowing into the house again as new flash flood warnings were posted and a flooded Kuakini Highway closed for the third time this month.
“We’re going to have to get out,” she said. “We’re just trying to document it as best we can.”
The runoff that has continually revisited the home came from one of four major floodways that drain through Kailua-Kona. The exact courses of those floodways are hard to define and change easily, said Mary Robblee, conservation assistant with the Kona Soil and Water Conservation District.
Given the unpredictable nature of water movement over the island’s new geology, keeping the ground covered in vegetation is vital to preventing soil from turning into mudflows, she said.
The prospect of building flood canals has popped up sporadically at the county level for at least 20 years.
But the projects would be expensive and nothing concrete has emerged from the talks.
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