Crews clear streams, ditches on Oahu as Hurricane Lester approaches

At 10 a.m. Friday, the City and County of Honolulu will hold a press conference on storm preparations ahead of Lester. Click here to watch it via live stream.

City and state crews spent Thursday clearing areas on Oahu prone to flooding during severe weather.

Work has intensified with the approach of Lester, now a category 3 hurricane expected to pass north of the islands.

In July, Tropical Storm Darby hit Oahu with a heavy onslaught of rain as it passed, triggering intense flash floods and extended power outages.

Overflow from Kalihi Stream went straight into condominiums on Umi Street, with the water reaching up to three feet high. Residents are still recovering from the damage.

On Thursday, crews were out clearing the stream of debris to prevent another potential episode.

“Our crews are taking out a lot of rubbish from the stream underneath the Dillingham bridge. They are going to be here today pulling out as much as they can and if necessary they will be out here tomorrow as well,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara. “In addition to clearing debris from underneath bridges, we’re going out and checking storm drains in areas that have been prone to flooding in the past, to make sure those drains are operating at the maximum capacity. We are also going out and staging heavy equipment in areas that have had some issues with flooding in the past, so if there is debris that falls on to the roadway, they will be able to respond right away and get that roadway reopened quickly.”

Crews are also prepping and monitoring areas like Kamehameha Highway in Kaaawa and Hana Highway on Maui, both of which experienced flooding, erosion, and landslides in the past.

On the North Shore’s Sunset Beach, resident Brooke Dombroski enjoyed some sun and surf in the midst of preparations for Hurricane Lester.

“There’s been a lot of sandbags already been put out and roped away from walking on the sand, so people are already kind of taking precautions,” she said.

In years past, high winter surf has come in and threatened homes in the area, perhaps most notably at Rocky Point.

On Thursday, there was still evidence of erosion, something Mahina Garcia has seen for years.

“I think the erosion that’s happening is really unfortunate and it is a big deal,” Garcia said. “You can see some of our friends’ houses are falling into the water and a lot of the people’s stairs and decks are going down.”

Garcia says people who live on the coast have been checking warnings and know to be ready. “Sandbags and ropes are definitely happening right now,” she said.

Over in Windward Oahu, Department of Education maintenance crews cleared portions of an overgrown ditch near Benjamin Parker Elementary School that also flooded during Darby.

Residents have been trying to get the ditch cleared for months.

Uluwehi Malama was at her wit’s end. She reached out to KHON2 through the Report It feature on our website, and now she’s feeling better.

“This morning when I came home from dropping my son off from school, I think I had more excitement than them on field trip day, because I ran outside and said oh my God there’s Tonkas,” she said.

Those “Tonkas,” as her son calls them, were excavators clearing out overgrown brush. You can understand why she’s feeling a bit like an excited child.

“I feel like I’m in a candy store. That’s how much excitement I have,” she said.

Malama watched the work crews all day, at times standing on her porch railing for a better view. Neighbors also came to watch, nearly just as excited.

“I’m so happy that they’re cleaning them. That’s why I came to see how they’re doing them,” said resident Chester Alapai. “They seem to be doing a pretty good job and that’s what I like see them do.”

Residents are happy that it’s all being done before Hurricane Lester arrives.

Malama is grateful and has this advice for anyone whose complaints are not being addressed: “The Report It app is awesome. Use it and someone will definitely from the station help you out, get it fixed, get it resolved, get it done.”

Important storm-related information:

Kalihi Stream
Kalihi Stream

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