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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 2, 2006

Cleaning up O'ahu

 •  Kahala Mall tackles soggy wares, carpet

By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer

Noah Foster helped wheel away mud and debris from a landslide that blocked parts of Maunalaha Road yesterday in Makiki.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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TODAY: Partly cloudy, light trade winds, with the possibility of afternoon showers.

TOMORROW: Partly cloudy with the possibility of windward and mauka showers.

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William Kaaiai's driveway on Maunalaha Road in Makiki was replaced by a 20-foot ditch carved by rushing storm water and giant boulders. He said entire slabs of concrete were washed away.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Bill Higdon, of Round Top Drive, got his car stuck in mud and black sand as he drove toward town Friday. He tried unsuccessfully for five hours to get the car out of the muck, before leaving it stuck overnight and having a tow truck free it yesterday.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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As O'ahu residents dug out and dried out yesterday, weather forecasters offered hope that the rains that have hammered the island for weeks are moving out to sea.

"The threat from flash flooding is diminishing rapidly," National Weather Service forecaster Robert Ballard said. "We're not completely out of the woods, but we're on the right path."

A flash flood watch for O'ahu ended yesterday at 3:46 p.m.

Most of the damage from Friday's deluge was focused in the Makiki, Tantalus, Round Top Drive, and Kalakaua Avenue areas, said John Cummings of the O'ahu Civil Defense Agency.

Sixteen civil defense volunteers conducted damage assessments yesterday and reported that 17 businesses and 23 homes suffered minor water, mud and debris damage on Friday, Cummings said. Landslides closed Round Top Drive, sequestering five families in their homes for several hours.

"Looks like we're out of it," Cummings said. "It should give the city a chance to do some debris clearing."

Some residents trapped in their homes when landslides closed Round Top Drive had no choice but to clear their own way out.

Mark Wong and Guy Merola got up yesterday and decided that they couldn't wait for work crews to remove a tree and large shrubs that had washed over the road near the lookout. They grabbed a chainsaw and other tools and whacked away until they were able to open up one lane of the road.

"We've had landslides six times in five days," Wong said as he sat on his porch overlooking downtown Honolulu. "I think we've been real lucky, and the plants love it."

Wong's next door neighbor, Bill Higdon, saw one of those landslides up close. As he drove down the hill toward town Friday, Higdon noticed large piles of mud and black sand in the roadway. As he slowed to avoid them, his car started to slide and went into one of the piles. Higdon tried unsuccessfully for five hours to dig his car out, but had to leave it stuck overnight.

Yesterday a friend with a tow truck came and yanked his car out.

"The hillside, I've never seen cliffs like this," said the 59-year-old tax preparer. "This is unique for up here."

About 25 yards past the landslides, residents of Maunalaha Road tried their best to clear debris and fix their yards.

William Kaaiai had his driveway replaced by a 20-foot ditch that was carved by rushing storm water and giant boulders. He said entire slabs of concrete and the earth supporting it were washed away.

"Big rain yesterday and (it brought) the water and the debris and the boulders," he said, shaking his head as he looked at the giant hole in front of his house. "It was our driveway."

Farther up the road more than 20 people worked where a 50-yard section of hillside had washed away. Where native plants and fruit trees had grown, a giant black gash remained. The rain forced the base of the section to fall away, causing the rest of the hill to implode.

"It's a valley in a valley," said Haku Onekea, 19, who has lived near the hill his entire life. "Not good at all. If this is the end of the rain, then next year's rain is going to make it bigger."

Sally Moses, 46, who lives next door to Onekea, said the sand pushed up against the back of her house, forcing her to nail tin sheets over her windows to keep the earth from coming in.

"It's (the weather) happening everywhere but not like this," she said. "You ever seen anything like this before in your life?"

In 'Aina Haina, residents of a home on Hao Street have asked city officials for help in shoring up or demolishing their house after rains undercut the foundation. Neighbors next to his parents' home, said David Loo, are fearful the house will fall onto their home.

Loo said the American Red Cross helped his parents, Walter and Mercedes Loo, by putting them up in a hotel for three nights. The couple is now looking for more permanent housing, he said.

Reach Peter Boylan at pboylan@honoluluadvertiser.com.