Washed-out roads trap residents
Peahi, Awalau roads partially closed as county clears out flood debris
Residents living off Awalau Road have been stuck for four days on the other side of a streambed that washed out a portion of the street during flash flooding in Haiku on Monday.
A small path was cleared by county and state officials Thursday evening so that residents can walk through if needed, but as of Friday morning, cars still could not make it across, according to one Haiku resident.
“Last night, it looks like they dredged out the mauka side and got the water to divert back to the original streambed,” Cheryl Hendrickson, who lives off Awalau, said early Friday morning. “I want to get out of here and go do some shopping, but I’m waiting for them to come and fix the road and whatever else they need to do because there’s huge potholes in the area that you can drive through.”
Heavy rainfall on Monday topped the Kaupakalua Dam and flooded streams and roads, causing evacuations, property damage and power outages.
Maui County Managing Director Sandy Baz said Friday afternoon that 17 homes suffered damage from minor to destroyed. He said most of the property damage was above the dam.
Awalau Road has been cleared but remains closed for safety reasons, said Tyson Miyake, Mayor Michael Victorino’s chief of staff. Motorists may drive onto Awalau Road from Kaupakalua Road to 311 Awalau Road, where the closure begins. Peahi Road, where floodwaters washed out a bridge, is also closed on both sides of the bridge between Aloha Aina Place and 525 Peahi Road.
Hendrickson said there are about 30 homes on Awalau Road located on the other side of the streambed, all of which have been inaccessible because of the broken road.
“When I talked to a few neighbors the morning after, there was one man who said that his wife couldn’t get home,” she added. “Yeah, there were people who couldn’t get home for sure.”
In the 14 years that she’s lived in the area, Hendrickson said the terrain usually handled heavy rain and the road never had to close.
“Normally when there’s a storm, we’ll have rushing waters down the road, but it usually doesn’t fill the whole road,” she said. “This time when I looked out that morning, it was the whole road, so that was unusual.”
Recently, the stream has not been flowing like it used to, she added, noting that there was buildup of debris farther up. Combined with the strong water flow, Awalau Road washed out.
“That was my reasoning why it broke the boundaries of the streambed,” she said.
Hendrickson said she didn’t notice any damage to homes, cars or other property on Awalau.
While some homeowners remain trapped by washed-out roads, others are working to overcome other challenges in the aftermath of the storm.
Maui High School English teacher Rachael Denessen said Friday afternoon that her family evacuated on Monday when water rapidly approached their Haiku home, eventually damaging their bottom floor, porch and garage.
Like Alawau Road, culverts by the house located by Hana Highway and Twin Falls filled up with debris and forced water over the road and the property.
“It filled up with water very, very fast,” Denessen said. “I went inside to make my lunch, and by the time I sat down with it, I didn’t even get to eat when my landlord said, ‘We need to go, it’s coming up too fast.’ “
Just about five minutes later while Denessen was quickly packing some personal items, the carport was already flooding.
“The whole bottom floor and the wraparound porch got flooded, so all of the floors have to be ripped out,” she said after visiting her residence Friday afternoon. “We lost most of the furniture — we were able to save some of it — and we might be able to save the cabinets but I’m not sure. It’s going to require a lot of reconstruction to get it back to a livable space.”
Denessen, her husband and 20-month-old son have been staying at the Maui Seaside Hotel and later at a friend’s condo in Kihei until repairs are made.
“Sometimes our bridge overruns a little bit during a really bad storm but never comes up into our yard. It never comes to the house,” she said. “It was just unprecedented.”
Despite the flooding, Denessen has been back in the classroom teaching her students “Hamlet,” saying “talking to them has helped to distract me.”
The family started a GoFundMe page to raise $3,000 to cover the costs of replacing her husband’s lost work tools, which floated away, as well as damaged furniture and floors. In two days, the fundraiser has collected over $1,500.
For more information or to donate, visit gofund.me/df667197.
“I’m really, really grateful for all of the people who rallied around us and have done what they can to help us, and asking us what we need,” she said. “I’m just really grateful. It could have been a lot worse.”
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at email@example.com.