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EDITORIAL: Are We Ready for the Big One?

Iao Valley Damage Assessment Photos. Taken on 9/15/2016 (Photo: Ryan Piros)
On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the sun had just set when a wall of water surged down Iao Valley River taking out county and state parking lots, gutting homes, and threatening subdivisions and human life. It’s estimated that nearly 3 billion gallons of water flowed down the river, moving boulders as if they were pebbles, cutting through embankments, and tearing through anything in its path.

The residents of the valley, as they continue to try and clean up and put their lives back together, are looking up at the sky wondering when the next rain will come. They realize that the river has been re-routed and the area fully saturated, so even a small rain could wipe out what’s left of their properties and even take lives.

A week has passed and MAUIWatch has one question: Are we ready for the big one? This emergency event focused primarily on Iao Valley. So how has county, state and federal agencies handled it thus far? And, are they ready if a state and county-wide emergency event – like a hurricane or tsunami – were to hit us?

It’s early, but here’s what MAUIWatch has heard:

Civil Defense was activated and thereafter coordinated with police, fire, water, public works and other agencies during and after the flood. Shelters were opened, and staff manned phone lines to answer and assist the public.

The Maui Fire Department rescued over 20 people from the flood. In fact, Chief Jeff Murray personally rescued two children and a grandmother from the roof of one Iao Valley home.

MAUIWatch has not always seen eye-to-eye with the Mayor’s Office, but we believe in giving kudos where kudos are due. Residents of Iao Valley report that at midnight on Tuesday, the night of the flood, Mayor Arakawa, Managing Director Keith Regan, and Chief Legislative Attaché Jock Yamaguchi were visiting their homes to make sure everyone was safe. Then early the next morning, the same three were making their way up the valley to assess the damage. Over the next few days, they were busy contacting state and federal representatives to send help immediately.

But what about the others? As this is being written, our governor has yet to set foot in Iao Valley. In fact, an Iao Valley resident said she called his Honolulu office and the person who answered the phone refused to transfer her call to any assistant, told the caller desperately asking for help that she needed to make an appointment if she wanted to speak with the governor, and told the caller that someone would call her back. To this day, no one from the governor’s office has returned her call.

Apparently, the National Guard will be mobilized. However, it’s been over a week and they’re not here and don’t have any heavy-equipment to clear boulders or debris from the river.

Perhaps this flood was a wake-up call or even a forewarning for all of us. If the federal and state government aren’t going to help us in times of emergency – the County of Maui and its people need to be ready. Maui County Council – this is not the time to be bickering with the Fire Department about positions – we need the battalion positions restored now. The Council should be working with the fire and police departments, as well as the water, solid waste, and public works departments now – before it’s too late. The Mayor should be in discussions with the governor and our federal delegation now to find out how emergency help can be expedited.

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About Neldon "AZD" Mamuad

Neldon "AZD" Mamuad is a pioneering social media entrepreneur who created MAUIWatch to solve the problem of breaking news on Maui. He has a 10-year pedigree running successful broadcast properties on Maui. He created KJMD-FM (Da Jam 98.3) in 2002 and hosted the widely popular "Big Phat Morning Show". Neldon is a local politco, event technologist, and involved with various community organizations. He was formerly Chairman of the Maui County Liquor Control Commission in 2014.

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