Kauai News

‘It’s Not Easy, It’s Hard’: Island Rallying Around Community Cut Off by Landslide

Posted January 9, 2022, 6:51 AM HST

Waimea resident receives food from Hawai‘i Food Bank Kaua‘i Chapter and Waimea High School during Friday’s food distribution. PC: County of Kaua‘i.

Kira Seabury is cut off from her home and family and expects to be for the next month.

Seabury and her children are living with loved ones in Waimea, having it made it to the other side of the now shuttered Menehune Road, but her boyfriend and their dogs are back inside their house, which was trapped like the rest of their neighborhood and cutoff from the rest of the island after a major rockfall on Jan. 4 closed Menehune Road.

It’s difficult, she said, not being able to rely on your routines, like going to work, and having to rely instead on neighbors to provide all the things you took for granted, like clothes, food, toiletries and a place to sleep.

“It’s so stressful, it’s hard to work,” Seabury said. “They’re saying it’s going to be a while.”

County of Kaua‘i crews continue to work to try and clear the road that was buried around 7:15 a.m. last Tuesday. Officials said on Saturday they anticipate it will take approximately three weeks to remove all rockfall hazards. But rockfall mitigation, which included airlifting drilling equipment and materials to the slope above the roadway, is underway. Part of the job will include forcing large boulders off the slope and onto the road. Contractors will attempt to protect the road, waterline, and historic bridge from mitigation work.

The clean-up will continue daily, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. until it is completed.

Seabury and her boyfriend expect to be separated the entire time. Driving in and out of isolated community is too dangerous to consider, she said. That means her boyfriend will have to use all his vacation time or take unpaid time off because he can’t get to work until the road is cleared. That will impact the family financially. Added to that is the stress of living under else’s someone’s roof, not having your own space, or your own vehicle.

“It’s not easy, it’s hard,” Seabury said.

The island has responded to the need. Donations for people in Seabury’s situation have poured in, but more are sought to help the now-isolated community survive the confinement. Seabury’s boss at Kauai Green Cleaning Services, Lea Marie Prescott, put the call out on Facebook for people to pitch in and offer support, be it through vehicles, supplies, or financially. ATVs are especially valuable commodities to help people traverse the rocky landscape. 

“Reports from friends and first responders are saying there are between 40 to 50 families who are affected by this landslide,” Prescott wrote. “When things happen on this island people come together.”

So far, Seabury said, the response has been good, but more supplies are needed. Anyone with ideas or means of helping, would be much appreciated, they said, and are asked to please reach out to chat directly by text or phone at 808-652-5391.

“There’s a lot of help,” Seabury said.

The State Department of Land and Natural Resources is working on opening an alternate emergency access route via UTV from Waimea Canyon Drive, located on State Forest Reserve land.

The county stated in a press release on Friday that the access road will serve as an emergency route for officials to deliver food and other urgent supplies to residents. It will not be open for public access until officials can deem the route safe for larger vehicles. The county stated it will provide updates on public access plans.

“As Menehune Road remains closed, it’s important for us to emphasize that the area is still very dangerous and that rocks are continuing to fall,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said in the news release. “For everyone’s safety, please do not go near the area until work is complete and it is deemed safe. We thank all our of partners for working diligently towards opening this road, and we especially thank our residents for your patience and coming together during this difficult time. We also want to give a special mahalo to Hawai‘i Food Bank Kaua‘i Chapter and Waimea High School for assisting in today’s food distribution, along with other community partners who are supporting our emergency response.”

The Governor’s Office signed an emergency proclamation which gives the governor authority to spend state funds as appropriated to protect the health, safety and welfare of residents and visitors on Kauaʻi. The declaration supports state and county efforts to provide quick and efficient relief. It stated in the declaration at least 24 families were affected by the landslide.

Crews will continue wellness checks and needs assessments in this area, as well as provide daily updates online here.

In anticipation of an emergency access route being established, solid waste officials plan to conduct a trash pick up on Monday, Jan. 10. Trash collection will be limited to household waste only. Residents are asked to leave bagged trash in county refuse carts. Bulky items, green waste, and loose trash will not be collected at this time.

If anyone in the affected area requires assistance during work hours, please call the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency, KEMA, at 808-241-1800. After working hours, call Kaua‘i Police Dispatch at 808-241-1711.

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