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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 8:58 p.m., Saturday, April 7, 2007

Officials hope North Shore highway will open partially by Monday

Advertiser Staff

WAIMEA — Kamehameha Highway through Waimea Bay will be closed in both directions at least through tomorrow due to a massive rockslide, state transportation officials determined at sunrise.

But officials hope that one lane will re-open Monday, said Scott Ishikawa, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.

No one was injured in the rockslide, but a driver tried to cross the debris after the slide and damaged his Ford truck, which remained stuck in the rubble this morning.

The slide occurred around 1 a.m. on the Sunset Beach side of Waimea Bay, Ishikawa said.

Tons of boulders — some of them the size of small cars — were partially snared by three, 15-foot-wide metal sections of rockfall fencing that had been erected after a 2000 landslide in nearly the identical spot along the mountainside.

The 2000 rockslide split the North Shore for 95 days, disrupting commutes and hurting North Shore businesses, which saw a drop in tourism traffic.

State transportation Deputy Director Brennon Morioka said today's rockslide was "significantly larger" than the 2000 slide.

This morning's slide sent several smaller boulders bouncing across Kamehameha Highway, and some crashed into a metal light pole, twisting it like a straw.

Most of the fence, however, prevented tons of rocks from crashing down onto the road, Ishikawa said.

Ishikawa said a 50-yard shelf of the mountain apparently gave way. It left a swath of light brown among darker, older rock.

Half a dozen Civil Defense volunteers were on either side of the rockslide this morning telling drivers that Kamehameha is closed.

City bus routes around the area also have been rerouted until further notice, said John Cummings, spokesman for the Department of Emergency Management, formerly the city's Civil Defense agency.

"There was a lot of debris and pieces came through the bottom of the fencing," he said.

The North Shore has had dry weather following heavy rains, which "tends to loosen everything up," Cummings said.

This morning, surfers, beachgoers, residents, and workers at the nearby Turtle Bay resort were forced to leave their cars on one side of the closed road, walk across a beach and try to get rides on the other said.

Department of Emergency Management and state transportation crews responded overnight to the rockslide but had to wait until sunrise to fully assess the extent of the damage and estimate how long the road would be closed.