Boats and helicopters evacuate stranded Kauai residents
By DAN NAKASO | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: April 17, 2018
HANALEI, Kauai (Tribune News Service) — A U.S. Army Chinook, a Hawaii Air National Guard Black Hawk and two Kauai County Fire Department helicopters took turns Monday ferrying more than 200 stranded campers, hikers, tourists and residents out of the tiny, storm-isolated community of Haena on the Garden Isle’s north shore. They planned to resume rescue operations this morning to pick up an unknown number of people left behind.
At the same time Monday, a volunteer flotilla of pleasure boats, fishing boats and personal watercraft ferried dozens of others stranded in Haena and brought them to Anini Beach and to the private Hanalei home of legendary big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton, said Monica Belz, CEO of the Kauai Government Employees Federal Credit Union.
Belz’s organization oversaw the distribution of 200 gallons of bottled water and two truckloads of food that boats and Black Hawks delivered to Haena, which became an island unto itself after Saturday night’s storm cut off the only road in and out.
Hamilton oversaw the personal watercraft rescue operation running out of his oceanside home, Belz said.
After crews removed downed ironwood trees and repaired utility lines that had fallen across Kuhio Highway at the Hanalei Bridge, another 121 people were taken out of Haena and Wainiha late Monday afternoon by the more mundane method of county buses and were driven to a temporary shelter set up at Hanalei Elementary School.
The school is scheduled to be closed today but is expected to reopen for students Wednesday.
No one was reported seriously injured from the unusually powerful April storm that sent rivers of mud flowing into homes from Koloa on the south shore to Hanalei.
Dozens of people from across the island told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that they had never seen anything like it.
Even for an island that went through a devastating hurricane, Iniki in 1992, Mayor Bernard Carvalho said the storm that arrived Saturday night and delivered a spectacular thunder-and-lightning show through Sunday resulted in a horrendous hit.
“I’ve lived here all my life — born and raised. This is the worst,” Carvalho, 57, told the Star-Advertiser.
But, as during Iniki, residents — even those struggling themselves — stepped up to help friends and strangers get through it.
Jim and Katie Muff of Chico, Calif., were staying at a friend’s house in Haena and suddenly found themselves stranded with their three children, ages 9, 6 and 4.
But they quickly formed a community of dozens of strangers who had power but no running water, said Jim, a dentist.
“We were catching rainwater and boiling it,” he said. “We were with about 15 others and just put everything (we had to eat) together and shared.”
They certainly had not expected what came next late Monday when they boarded a Fire Department helicopter with no doors for an approximately eight-minute flight to a grass field at Princeville.
Jim and Katie Muff have visited the islands several times and even honeymooned on Kauai. But their latest island adventure — followed by the family’s first helicopter ride — was nothing they had planned.
“Not even close,” Jim said.
Kauai resident Roy Chambers has two homes: one in Hanalei and one in Haena, where he found himself stranded over the weekend.
“We had power but no water,” Chambers said.
Then the first of three boats began arriving to pick up hungry and thirsty tourists and residents like himself.
They kept coming back “on the hour pretty much” and began leaving behind the first of “a couple of thousand” packages of dry ramen noodles, Chambers said.
The captains asked for nothing in return, not even gas money, and relentlessly picked up “10 to 13 people per boat,” Chambers said.
Chambers, who has lived on Kauai for 30 years, has seen such outpouring plenty of times on Kauai.
“They’re on it,” he said.
Carvalho and Gov. David Ige toured the damage in a Hawaii Air National Guard Black Hawk on Monday morning after Ige arrived from Honolulu.
The storm triggered at least eight rockslides along Kuhio Highway, and “new rivers were created,” Carvalho said. An unknown number of homes were likely knocked off their foundations, he said.
Carvalho and Ige are bracing for damage assessments that are likely to be in the millions.
Ige has issued an emergency declaration for Kauai and said he and Carvalho have already been in contact with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to lay the groundwork for the rebuilding process.
Kauai County already had budgeted $14 million for such a disaster, but Carvalho only could shake his head when asked how big the final price tag may be.
Throughout the stormy weekend, Carvalho told residents and visitors to “shelter in place.”
But on Monday, with the skies clearing, Carvalho had a more optimistic message for those isolated by the storm: “Today’s the rock ’n’ roll day. Come on, man.”