Raging waters threaten home for a second time

This is a screen shot from a video Waihee resident Kimo Gusman took on Wednesday of the Waihee River raging near the Naganuma family home. Gusman’s and other videos have been widely shared via social media. KIMO GUSMAN image

WAIHEE — Red-and-white hazard tape hung alongside the Waihee home of the Naganuma family Thursday, a day after raging waters from the nearby Waihee River damaged the family home for a second time this year.

The family’s gray post-and-pier main house looked as if the river, swollen from Tropical Storm Olivia rains, was going to swallow it up Wednesday. Widely shared social media videos showed brown river water gushing near the home.

On Thursday, at the lowest point of the Naganuma property, mud settled in the garage, and a broken portion of a newly completed concrete wall sat halfway submerged in the river.

Now a portion of the house is only 4 feet away from the river, said Scott Naganuma of Lahaina. Before this year’s rains, at least 30 feet separated the home from the river.

Other Waihee residents reported flooded yards and damaged taro patches on Wednesday.

On Thursday, waters in the Waihee River were a bit calmer than a day earlier when Tropical Storm Oliva made landfall near Kahakuloa. The Naganuma family’s home next to the river remained standing after raging waters came close on Wednesday. This is the second time this year that the home has been impacted by the river’s heavy flow. A recently completed concrete wall is partially submerged in the river. The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo

In February, flash flooding in Waihee stranded some residents, inundated homes and yards and frightened residents. The flooding swamped the Naganumas’ yard, carport and lower-level office.

Naganuma’s parents, Stanley and Maureen, have lived in the Waihee home for 25 years. The couple was on vacation in Alaska when Olivia’s rains soaked Maui this week. They were scheduled to return Thursday night.

“Next big water, the house is going, guarantee,” Naganuma said, adding that February’s heavy rains moved around boulders in the river and changed its course, bringing water closer to the home.

On Wednesday, flood waters knocked out a column that held up the kitchen area.

“We needed that column back, it was custom-made. I went back (Wednesday night), I retrieved it from the river,” Naganuma said.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department taped off the home because it was determined to be unsafe, he said.

Other family members moved the elder Naganumas’ vehicles out of the garage to higher ground.

Reached via cellphone before her flight took off on Thursday, Maureen Naganuma said: “Now we are faced with another situation, right?”

Flood insurance from the February flooding paid “very little,” she said.

The Naganuma family, like others in Maui County, including those in Honokohau Valley and Kahana, are faced with cleanup and repairs after Tropical Storm Olivia made landfall around 9:10 a.m. Wednesday near Kahakuloa, then 6 miles northeast of Lanai City at 9:54 a.m. before heading west, away from the state.

The deluge swelled Honokohau Steam and ditches in West Maui. Flooding forced many families in Honokohau Valley to evacuate. Others were cut off by running water. Cars and sheds were seen floating along in the brown flood waters. Videos of the flooding were posted on social media.

One family’s two-bedroom residence was picked up and displaced by the waters from Honokohau Stream. Belongings of people higher in the valley flowed downstream.

Fifteen to 25 families live in the area, residents said. No injuries have been reported.

On Thursday, Lower Honoapiilani Road in Kahana between Puamana Place and Hui Road E remained closed. Water from Kahana Stream undermined the road and flooded the street and nearby properties.

Back in Waihee, the Naganuma family has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers since the February flood. The family is seeking help to get the river flow back to its normal course, which would be further away from the home.

This could include moving boulders in the river, Scott Naganuma said.

Mayor Alan Arakawa’s chief of staff, Lynn Araki-Regan, said on Thursday that the county has asked residents such as the Naganumas to fill out a damage form.

A link to the form can be found at www.mauicounty.gov/FormCenter/Civil-Defense-Forms-2/Report-Storm-Related-Damage-StormFlood-E-87. Or people can call 270-7285 to talk to Maui Emergency Management Agency staff.

In February, the county was quick to conduct a damage assessment on the Naganuma home.

Managing Director Keith Regan said: “We try to help them as much as we can. We do whatever we can as possible for all the residents that are impacted by the various disasters.”

In the more than two decades that the Naganumas have lived in the Waihee area, they did not have floods until some unpermitted work in the river was done higher up in the valley, Scott Naganuma said. He said he suspects that could be part of the problem.

Now, Scott Naganuma said, boulders need to be placed alongside the riverbanks to hold off further erosion and to protect his parents’ home, which includes a spacious deck and pool.

“This is the dream house,” he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper?


Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today