In 1986 my family was evacuated from our home when the hillside across the road collapsed during a particularly bad Seattle storm, bringing down boulders, mud and large trees in its wake. Immediately the neighbors came out of their houses and started shoveling mud, diverting it away from our home and two others and down our driveway into the garage and out into a wooded area.
In response the city delivered empty sandbags to our location, which our husbands started filling with mud; the sand didn’t come until a day later. Bales of hay were placed alongside the road which provided the only access to our homes. We were able to walk on these bales to our homes to do laundry and prepare food but had to be out by dark because city inspectors, fearing the slides would continue (which they did) and we wouldn’t hear them ordered us all out and posted “CONDEMNED” notices to that effect on our doors.
We were the fortunate ones. Two other houses were destroyed and never rebuilt. One afternoon my husband and I stood at the top of the slide area surveying the damage only to see another slide, taking a tree with it, moving down toward our home. Luckily it was diverted down our driveway and into our garage, where it flowed into an open pit area; we’d been visiting friends so still had our car.
We moved into a hotel kindly arranged for, at a much-reduced rate, by a friend who worked there. The Postman agreed to deliver mail for all of us to one mailbox on a neighbor’s front porch while the Seattle school district arranged transportation for our three children to and from school daily. I was taking classes at a local university studying for a degree in Theology and my class that quarter was “Revelations and Apocalyptic Literature,” most appropriate we decided.
When the rains, floods and mudslides hit the North Shore of Kaua’i, we had only a slight inkling of what the residents here are going through. My daughter is the team leader of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Kekaha, my daughter-in-law a member of the Kekaha team, while my husband is a member of CERT Kalaheo. All were called out to volunteer their time and energy to survey the damage and to assist the families so badly affected, distributing food, cleaning supplies and evacuating well over 450 people caught unaware.
While most of us were able to return to our Seattle homes a month later, it won’t be that easy for the North Shore. Well over 49” of rain poured down on Hanalei and the North Shore. Highways were buried beneath mud, boulders and trees. Homes were pulled from their foundations and some washed down rivers. Bison from the nearby farm were also impacted and several lost their lives, though many others were recovered. The taro crop was lost beneath floodwaters. Businesses were covered in mud.
Recovery will take months and unfortunately some areas may never recover. But the people of Kaua’I are strong and resilient. They’ve faced disasters before and undoubtedly will again. They roll up their sleeves and get busy, doing what needs to be done, sharing what they have with others who have lost everything. While there were injuries, no lives were lost and in a spirit of gratitude they survive.
the photo at the top is of a tree on Kaua’i