Maui News

One Year Anniversary of Historic ‘Īao Flood

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Today marks the one year anniversary of the historic flood at ʻĪao Valley.  Officials say it cost Maui County $2 million to clean out the debris basin and to make repairs to the flood control area last year.

ʻĪao Valley, erosion and flood debris from flash flood. PC: 9.14.16 by Wendy Osher.

The state also continues to conduct slope stabilization work higher up in the valley at the ʻĪao Valley State Monument.  Last year, state officials had placed the cost of repairs at near $15 million.  The monument area will undergo a two month closure beginning on Oct. 16, 2017 after crews secured additional permits to continue work at the site.

After the flood, both county and state parks in the valley were closed to the public for an extended period.  The county’s Kepaniwai Park below the Hawaiʻi Nature Center reopened in April, 2017, after a seven month closure; and the ʻĪao Valley State Monument has been temporarily open since Aug. 5, 2017 following a nearly 11 month closure.

As bad as last year’s event was, a similar event on the same river, resulted in both death and destruction, 100 years prior. That Jan. 18, 1916 flood claimed the lives of at least 13 people and destroyed 34 homes, according to Maui News articles at the time.

While lives were spared during the Sept. 13, 2016 flood, residents compared the roar of the river during last year’s event to the sound of a jet engine and described a “trembling” that occurred as huge boulders were pushed downstream.  In all 11 individuals were evacuated by emergency personnel when they became stranded by the rising stream water that night.

(Video below from Sept. 13-14, 2016)


MOTORCYCLIST SWEPT BY WATER AT ʻĪAO VALLEY RD: At 7:52 p.m. on Sept. 13, 2016, a rescue company from Kahului responded to a motorcyclist that was reportedly swept away by water crossing ʻĪao Valley Road in the area of Tropical Gardens of Maui. When rescue crews arrived, the motorcyclist was found walking uphill to safety. He was uninjured and declined medical attention. The motorcycle was found off the shoulder of ʻĪao Valley Rd. where stream waters were now swiftly flowing across the roadway a few feet deep.

FAMILY STRANDED ON ROOF OF ʻĪAO HOME: (video from Sept. 22, 2016)

Around the same time, a fire battalion chief, who was searching for the motorcyclist, encountered a woman who reported that a woman and two young children had retreated to the roof of the home as flood waters were flowing around and through the structure, near where the motorcyclist went down. Water overflowing from the Wailuku River had jumped its banks upstream, and was flowing too high and too swiftly at the front of the home to safely reach them. When responding crews arrived, the Kahului rescue crew and Wailuku engine company had to wait until water flowing across ʻĪao Valley Rd. subsided enough that vehicles could cross.  When flows retreated, crews eventually made it to the home and rescued the two kids and the woman from the roof of the home. They did not require medical attention.


92-YEAR-OLD MAN CARRIED OUT OF ʻĪAO HOME IN RESCUE BASKET: Fire crews also rescued two adult males and a female from a home next door and upstream from the family that was just pulled off the roof. One of them was a 92-year-old male that had to be carried to dry ground in a rescue basket.

6 DISABLED ADULTS EVACUATED FROM UA PLACE AT ʻĪAO: Another home just upstream on Ua Place received flooding on the first floor but the water had subsided by a few feet by the time fire crews reached them. Three males and three females were evacuated from the home that housed disabled adults. No medical attention was needed. All six were taken to the Red Cross shelter opened at the War Memorial Gym in Wailuku.

One resident also lost three vehicles in the 2016 incident. Several residents reported fence lines and large sections of what was once their property, being washed down the river.

“To this day, our Public Works crews continue to perform the required maintenance of our Wailuku River Flood Control. This work will help to protect the community by making sure the flood control is intact and clear of debris, and is federally mandated, as stated by the US Army Corps of Engineers,” said Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone.

Federal construction of the flood control at the Wailuku River began 40 years ago, from 1977 to 1981.


“As with any flood control project in the United States, it was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers but must be maintained by local government, in this case, the County of Maui,” said Antone.

*(Video below from Sept. 23, 2017)

*(Video below from Aug. 2017 – soft reopening of monument)




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