Hawaii made national news today when a dam broke on the island of Kauai. Here is the article from the local paper: Honolulu Advertiser. We have had a steady supply of rain for the last 2 weeks, 18" falling in just one 48-hour period. Telephone poles fell over Farrington Highway a few days ago, cars have been stuck in the high rising waters, yards and homes have been swept away by flash floods.
I have lived here for more than 13 years and I do not recall this much rain falling so quickly. Twelve years ago there was some flash flooding but I don't remember watching a whole backyard being swept away- yard furniture included. I remember when I was living in the barracks on base in 1989 or 1990 it rained so hard that there was a small river flowing at the base of the hill our barracks sat on. Guys were taking boogie boards and racing across the lawn.
I did some research on Hawaii's dam structure since I didn't know there were any here and found some interesting information on both dams and bridges, specifically, they really suck out here. A report card by the Society of Civil Engineers gave a pretty poor grade to Hawaii in a lot of areas but h ere is what they said about the bridges and dams:
- 47% of Hawaii's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
- There are 22 state-determined deficient dams in Hawaii.
- Hawaii has 77 high hazard dams. A high hazard dam is defined as a dam whose failure would cause a loss of life and significant property damage.
A civil engineer from Kailua had this to say in the report:
It is difficult to get public energized about infrastructure until there is a failure.
That statement gets the big "Duuuuuuh!". Money just isn't spent on important upgrades until someone dies. I wonder though why is it that so many things that happen regularly out here kick this state's ass. There are parts of this state that get as much rain as a rain forest however if the cloud moves a mile in any one direction the countryside is devastated. The drainage and run-off systems are woefully inept and as residents have learned (the hard way, unfortunately) something has to be done. Hawaii needs to spend the money to upgrade existing infrastructure to keep people who live near the run-off areas safe.
Even the homeless people are suffering from the extensive rain. This 47 year-old woman has her "encampment" setup next to the Waimanalo bridge- yes, a bridge. She says she has nowhere to go but I would think with the rising waters and the condition of most of the bridges in this state would be a bellringer for this woman and she would go somewhere else. I used to think that the bums who lived underneath the H-1 highway had it made- permanent shade and a continuing supply of cars to panhandle. I have noticed that the rain really comes down in sheets under that overpass so I suspect that the bums have moved on because I haven't seen any make-shift tarps or abandoned shopping carts lately. They are probably stepping up their movie attendance at Restaurant row since it is only 50 cents, dry, and air conditioned.
This post has been a hodgepodge of comments and such but the point is clear. Hawaii just can't seem to get it together when it comes to any type of civil infrastructure. Perhaps this thesis statement should have been at the beginning of this post; I must be slacking. Time to finish up my Master's and get back into the swing of education.