Mudslides and flooding combined with fallen utility poles and collapsed roads are the reality of many coastal communities after the Kona storm swept through Maui this weekend.
And this reality is “Going to be a trend” unless changes are made to the way infrastructure is built and maintained in the midst of a climate crisis, said Kelly King, a member of the Maui County Council, who chairs the climate action, resilience committee and Environment Council and represents South Maui, which was hit hard by the storm.
“We have to start taking it more seriously. . . . We must understand that this is not a one-off thing ”, King said Wednesday afternoon by phone. “We need to be smarter about what we’ve done wrong and how we need to fix it, but also not repeat those problems by continuing to build too close to the ocean or build too high or build in a way. which is not sustainable. “
The backcountry, east Maui and south Maui have been the hardest hit communities, experiencing heavy rainfall, flooding, and prolonged power and water outages in some cases. Damage assessments are underway to estimate the costs of repairs needed to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, county spokesman Brian Perry said.
South Kihei Road reopened to local traffic only from North Kihei Road to Kaonoulu Street after parts of the road were “undermined” during the heavy rains and left some pipes exposed. Debris on the shoulder of the road does “It is dangerous to restore the normal flow of traffic on this section of the road”, said Perry.
“The county has cleared and repaired roads in other areas affected by the floods,” he added. he added. “The roads most vulnerable to flooding are those located near rivers or in low lying areas. “
With traffic jams already increasing on North Kihei Road, Piilani Highway and Maui Veterans Highway, a few officials said on Wednesday that structural repairs to critical roads, downed utility poles, homes and exposed water pipes will continue for some time. time after the storm.
Beaches and coral reefs affected by heavy sediment runoff will also experience a lengthy recovery process.
Moving forward, King suggested that “We must start to move away from the shore”, a process known as managed retirement, to protect homes and other infrastructure.
In addition, she noted that some roads that have been recently repaired “Should have been high” during construction in anticipation of flooding.
“So we need to get smarter about how we fix roads, how and where, and start looking at (prefabricated) bridges” said the king. “So we have to look for ways to save money and make decisions about what we are protecting ourselves from. “
The county is making progress in tackling climate change and future natural disasters by reducing its carbon footprint, such as through a bill passed by council in November that would require new residential buildings for one or two families over 5,000 square feet are zero. net energy homes.
Tara Owens, a coastal process and risk specialist at the University of Hawaii’s Sea Grant College program, told the Maui News earlier this year that adaptation and ecosystem adaptation are other necessary steps.
Accommodation focuses on improving current developments, such as raising a building, which can operate in areas prone to flooding, while ecosystem-based adaptation involves the preservation and restoration of systems. natural, such as wetlands, reefs, beaches and sand dunes, which would buffer any impacts.
Mayor Michael Victorino told the county press conference on Friday that the water was knee-high on the first floor of an apartment building in South Maui he went to visit in the aftermath of the storm . He expressed concern about the vulnerability of the area, highlighting erosion along South Kihei Road and damage to a bridge near Kulanihakoi Street. The county may need to consider increasing the size of the culvert there, Victorino said.
“We are concerned about what will happen with southern Kihei, not only with the high waves now, but also with any other type of flooding that may occur in this region,” he added.
As the remnants of the storm passed, residents were seen cleaning up flooded garages, swimming pools, cars and sidewalks as county and state workers repaired structural damage.
“We know that Kula, Kihei and East Maui have been heavily impacted by the recent weather system, and other areas have been affected as well,” Victorino in a press release Tuesday. “Reporting damage online can help Hawaii secure the necessary funding from FEMA to help individuals as well as government assistance for infrastructure damage. “
State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Shelly Kunishige said on Wednesday crews are still working to remove fallen trees from power lines and replace fallen poles on Kekaulike Avenue between Mile Marker 8 and Alae Road.
“We expect the debris removal at this site to be completed by the end of next week,” Kunishige said.
Part of the shoulder and the guardrail were also washed away. The reconstruction will take between six and nine months, she added. Kekaulike Avenue near Maui Wedding Flowers will be limited to one lane until repairs are complete.
The estimated cost of repairs to Kekaulike Avenue is $ 1.75 million.
Other roads that DOT teams responded to were the North Kihei Road, the Honoapiilani Road at pali, the Hana Road in central Maui, the Kula Road and the Piilani Road, she said.
Workers are evaluating bridges on the Kula Expressway and Kekaulike Avenue that may require scour repairs, while bridges on the Piilani Expressway may require silt removal.
* Dakota Grossman can be contacted at [email protected]. Editor-in-chief Colleen Uechi contributed to this report.