The communities of Waipa, Waikoko, Wainiha and Haena along Kauai’s north shore were hit with a national record of 49.69 inches of rainfall on the night of April 14, 2018. This massive rainfall (known as ua loku in Hawaiian) resulted in 14 landslides along the Kuhio Highway between Waikoko and Wainiha, effectively shutting down the only land-based route between these communities and the rest of Kauai. The Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) had to come up with a solution to reopen the road to traffic quickly. HDOT got to work addressing the challenge on multiple fronts. Crews and material from all islands were flown in by helicopter and shipped in by barge to clear mud and debris from the Wainiha and Haena ends of Kuhio Highway until a one-lane emergency road could be punched through the landslides.
Local residents with earth-moving equipment from the suddenly isolated communities self-mobilized to begin clearing the highway. The crews and residents faced numerous challenges during the clean-up process such as narrow roads, weight-restricted bridges that needed smaller equipment, and difficult terrain. In addition to clearing the road, the department completed multiple slope stabilizations and bridge repairs to address future rain events. HDOT’s response ensured that there would be a minimal period of recovery, while constant communication with the public on social media and other platforms ensured everyone was aware of plans, closures, and openings – putting safety at the forefront of this effort.