Hawaii News — About Hurricane Iselle

By Le’a Gleason

The aftermath of Hurricane Iselle has left many Hilo communities feeling thankful for minimal damage. Some Puna communities, however, say they are feeling Iselle’s effects in multiple ways that aren’t being recognized with relief efforts. Wai’Opae, or “Kapoho Vacationland” is one of the communities that was hit the hardest.

What soon became “tropical storm” Iselle was arguably a category 1 Hurricane when it touched down on the shores of the Kapoho tidepools Thursday evening. The storm brought high tides and strong winds that knocked down thousands of trees all over the Puna district and downed power poles and power lines.

In Wai’Opae specifically, a six-foot surge of water pushed over rock walls, washed away gravel and rocks, knocked over trees, and left at least six homes completely demolished. Strong winds knocked over massive trees covering the road. There was no way in or out of the subdivision until Saturday.

Sunday afternoon, the community association met with a group of residents to discuss a plan of action. Major concerns discussed were that the area lacks any communication methods. In Wai’Opae there is no electricity, running water, or cell phone service.

One resident claimed four of seven AT&T cell phone towers were down. Residents raised concern over how to communicate with authorities in the event of a medical emergency while phone service is down.

Another major concern discussed was pollution in the tide pools surrounding the homes. Residents say they saw sewer caps floating in the water and there was a possibility sewage lines had been ruptured. In addition, several large propane tanks are lodged at the bottom of one pond, and there is a large amount of paint and other hazardous chemicals that floated into other ponds. Dead fish, roofing, and miscellaneous belongings are floating in the water as well.

No conclusion was reached, as residents agreed they felt uncomfortable with the dangers of cleaning the ponds themselves, for health reasons.

Also discussed at the meeting was a high volume of strangers who have been attempting to enter the area. The community has started a round-the-clock watch to stop looters and said that several attempts by looters had already been made.

A follow-up meeting was scheduled for Monday at 4:30 p.m. In the meantime, residents were tasked with calling Harry Kim and contacting Civil defense, calling AT&T, contacting FEMA, and contacting local representatives for help.

Several residents referred to the media attention to the area as a “total media blackout”. According to them, few media representatives have been to the area.

The association president said he was “shocked” and felt that the community had been ignored by County of Hawaii officials, but thanked the County workers, military, and residents who had begun to help with clean-up.

At this time, there is no long-range plan in place to restore the Wai’Opae community.

4 replies
  1. John Marshall & wife
    John Marshall & wife says:

    Although, my family and friends are glad to finally get a specific post about Wai’Opae–Kapoho Vacationland, We’re so sorry to hear that Imelle had such a huge impact. Our hopes and prayers are with the people and area–they feel like our own ohana. We hope another post will be made after the community association meets next Monday or whenever there’s more news for those of us who really care.

  2. Bobby Jean Leithead Todd
    Bobby Jean Leithead Todd says:

    I arrived at Vacationland shortly after the community meeting on Sunday. It was my second trip of the day to Vacationland and I was there at the request of Civil Defense Chief Daryl Oliveira to report to the community on county plans to bring roll off bins to handle rubbish from the surge. I returned for the Monday meeting. By then, County Fire Department hazmat had been there to check on the propane tanks. State Department of a Health officials had surveyed the community and stayed for the meeting to report on issues related to cesspools and septic systems. Our roll off bins had already been delivered and instructions given regarding separating out hazardous materials, white goods from regular rubbish. Cell phone service from AT&T was restored. I also brought ice and water. On my way back I stopped at the Pahoa Fire Station to ensure that Vacationland would be included in the security patrols of the County Police and National Guard.

    Additional county personnel had also been there to do preliminary damage assessment.

    The meeting was videotaped by two different media representatives so I assume it will show up either on TV on the internet.

    The community has many concerns that need to be addressed among them insurance and reconstruction.

    The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and Hawaii County will set up Disaster Assistance and Recovery Centers (DARCs) on Hawaii Island to provide information and services to people whose property was damaged by Tropical Storm Iselle.

    The current schedule is Thursday, August 14 to Friday August 15, 2014 at the Pahoa Community Center from 8 a.m. To 8 p.m.

    On Saturday August 16 to Sunday August 17, the DARC will be at Mountain View Gym from 8a.m. To 8p.m.

  3. John Marshall
    John Marshall says:

    Any news/updates on the current situation at Kapoho Vacationland-Wai’Opae? Electric or water back on? Meeting of Community Association happen Monday? Or water quality testing of tidepools done by Dept. of Health as regularly scheduled for Puna?

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