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'The Road of the River is the Road of the River' says Kaupakalua Resident

Department of Land and Natural Resources
State officials visit and inspect the Kaupakalua Dam in Ha'iku, Maui on March 9, 2021.

As communities across the island state grapple with heavy rains, flooded roadways and overflowing streams, Maui residents are dealing with the aftermath of what could have been a disaster. Maui County says about a half a dozen homes were destroyed and more than 100 households evacuated when a torrential downpour overflowed Kaupakalua Dam in Ha?ik?.

Heavy rain is nothing new to Kaupakalua resident Joey Caires. He gets about 75 inches of rainfall a year. In fact, one definition of the name Kaupakalua is “the place of great raindrops.” But Monday’s downpour was different, he says.

“In my life, I never did see this road Kaupakalua Road with over two feet high of water flowing down for about four hours,” says Caires.

He lives mauka of the Kaupakalua Dam, which overflowed Monday forcing the evacuation of about 150 households. Ha?ik? resident Lauryn Rego who lives just west of the dam says spotty internet service left her completely cut off from any emergency announcements.

“So my daughter and I were pretty oblivious, I have a four year old, I'm a single mom,” says Rego, “I had a full workday planned that I couldn't even touch because I just was completely cut off electronically.”

Rego managed to drive mauka to a spot with better cell service and realized how serious the situation was, but she still couldn’t figure out where the dam was in relation to her location.

“You’d click on a link, and then it would like take forever. And then something would come up and there’d end up being no map. No map at all!” says Rego, “This just made me realize that if you have limited time, limited service and ability to access information, it was just really frustrating.”

Maui County says floodwaters destroyed the Peahi Bridge and damaged at least a half a dozen homes. Caires blames an accumulation of debris along the river and an increase in residential development for the damage.

“A lot of the newcomers that live here on Maui now feel that its so pleasant down in this valley,” says Caires, “It looks so beautiful. You can listen to the water and all. And now, the water went over the river and took those houses.”

His ‘ohana has lived in the area for five generations and he says long-time families have a saying.

“The road of the river is the road of the river,” says Caires, “It may not come 20 years from now. It might not come 50, but when it comes, it takes.”

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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