HANALEI, Kauai — One thing will stick with me most about the aftermath of the record weekend storm that devastated Hanalei and much of the rest of Kauai’s North Shore all the way to Haena.
The first is the cacophony of a seemingly immense mass of pressure washers.
The second is the mumble of restaurant conversations about rental cars that have gone on the permanently missing list, probably dozens of them up there in the mud and on the rocks between Lumahai Beach and Kee at the end of the road.
No sooner had the storm moved on than people in Hanalei came out into a respite of briefly (somewhat) brighter weather.
One of them was Chad Ulmer, owner (with his wife, Anna) of Halelea Gallery, housed in a rambling building just as you drive into Hanalei with the island landmark Dolphin Restaurant, another gallery and the I Heart Hanalei Beach Boutique.
This makes it personal with me. You may know me from things I write occasionally, but I consider my primary occupation to be furniture maker. Halelea sells my coffee tables, desks and other large pieces. When I caught up to him on Tuesday, he was finishing clearing out the gallery, which had, at the height of the storm, been filled by more than three feet of water.
The safe was submerged. The display cases were overturned and inundated. Paintings were soaked where they hung on the walls. Every one of my pieces had been under water. That’ll mean, at the very least, sanding and refinishing them all. When they dry out, some of them may be unsalvageable.
But there was Ulmer, somewhat cheerfully cleaning up. Sure, there’s insurance, but the gallery was rolling with the punch to an extent I’d not thought possible. Next door, employees at I Heart Hanalei Beach Boutique were filling plastic sacks with sodden garments, tossing them onto a trailer as if they were corpses and getting ready to take everything to the dump. The staff of the Dolphin had spread out the tables and chairs on the lawn so they could start rescuing the dining room.
At the high end St. Regis Princeville Resort, which looms above Hanalei, the general manager announced that employees rendered homeless by the storm could stay at the hotel if they needed to —no charge. In the euphemistic prose of public relations, a spokesperson said: “We are currently attending to the needs of our employees that are affected, and providing the support and housing necessary through this difficult time.”
A few blocks away, on super-affluent Weke Road (pronounced “VEK-eh”), three homes that were essentially destroyed by the floodwaters lay forlornly, looking like pancakes that didn’t cook right. But two doors down there was a fourth house, occupied by a couple with decades of history in Hanalei but private enough that they asked that their name not be used.
From Weke, the front of their house looked completely normal. But from the backyard, it could easily be seen that the flooding had wiped out the ground below the house, leaving concrete structural elements hanging. Yet, just before noon, when I returned, they asked me to stay for lunch.
Restaurants were operating without credit card processing equipment and with ground rules under which emergency response personnel were asked not to pay for their meals.
But not all was perfect with the image. Near Weke Road, a buffalo still trapped in debris tried to break out. Just when a human intervention was being organized the beast broke free.
In the back yards of two of the pancaked houses, there was unfortunate evidence of something very wrong. Looters had apparently broken into at least one of the houses — perhaps both of them if the smashed plate glass window and forced front door were any indication. On the lawn outside, the apparent thieves had discarded a flat screen TV and a vacuum cleaner.
• Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services: Make online donations at hawaii.salvationarmy.org or call 808-988-2136.
• Kauai Independent Food Bank: Cleaning supplies, bottled water, nonperishable food, hygiene products and diapers accepted at the Kauai Independent Food Bank from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For after-hours deliveries, call 808-652-4737.
• Hawaii Life Charitable Fund: Matching first $25,000 donations to the Hawaii Charitable Fund to support Malama Kauai and Red Cross. Visit give.hawaiilife.com/donate/ or email Meghan Thibault, email@example.com.
• Hawaii Community Foundation: Contribute online to the Kauai Relief and Recovery Fund at HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org/KauaiRelief
• Hawaii Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster: Go to hivoad.communityos.org/cms/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Hawaii Food Bank: Annual Food Day Drive on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Windward City Shopping Center will help flood victims. Nonperishable food and bottled water can also be dropped off at Kauai branch. Make online donations clicking this link.
People who said they were witnesses described the offenders as young guys, dressed in black, who broke in about 3 a.m.
Over lunch at Kalypso, a prominent Hanalei hangout, Gregg Kravitz, Princeville resident and paddler, talked about a new canoe his club purchased in early March, for about $18,000. After its blessing ceremony, it was raced three times, Kravitz said. But then over the weekend, the storm got to it and broke it in two pieces, which were tossed up on the beach.
The canoe, he said, was called “Kala’iomahamoku,” which, he said, means “the peaceful, calm, tranquility, serene as sky sea or wind of Mahamoku” (the name of the sandy beach of Hanalei).
Around town, there were so many broken and battered canoes and surfboards in trees, by the roadside, stuck in weeds in the river and otherwise surviving as refuse that they were impossible to count.
Hanalei was reverting to local control as tourists departed in droves. Coming into town, the usual ratio of 10 rental cars for every island resident’s Toyota Tacoma had shifted to the reverse. But rental cars were clearly on the minds of remaining visitors — as they had been on Monday when hundreds of tourists were evacuated by helicopter — who wondered how they were going to explain to their car rental companies how it was that they were returning empty-handed.
The number of missing rental cars may never be known. Some might not ever be found. Some are doubtless buried. A few may actually be in the ocean. Many are at the roadside, wherever it was they were abandoned before Kuhio Highway collapsed in more than a half dozen places. Restoring the roadway will take months.
One of the remaining tourists was lighthearted about it. He said he’d called Enterprise Car Rental and they told him: “Just leave the keys at any Enterprise office.”
The pressure washer symphony was overwhelming. Cleaning and construction crews were deployed in Hanalei like a World War II invasion beach — and seemed to be defeating the enemy. Construction materials were arriving. Contractors had descended on Hanalei in force.
But then there was the subject of the weather. Some said a new front may be coming through, bringing renewed storm conditions for the weekend. One thing about Kauai weather forecasts, though, is that they are not entirely credible.
People were inclined to wait and see, and keep pressure washing.
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