Hawaii & Alaska
A pipe lies exposed not far from the ocean along South Kihei Road on Tuesday in the wake of a storm that brought heavy rains and flooding, undermined roads and damaged water lines in some areas. County officials said the storm was a stark reminder of the perils of building roads and housing along low-lying coastal areas that are subject to severe weather and climate change. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

HI - Storm lays bare the costs of building along the coast

Mudslides and flooding combined with downed utility poles and collapsed roads are the reality of many coastal communities after the Kona low storm swept through Maui this weekend.

And this reality is “going to be a trend” unless changes are made to how infrastructure is built and maintained amidst a climate crisis, said Maui County Council Member Kelly King, who chairs the council’s Climate Action, Resiliency and Environment Committee and represents South Maui, which was hit hard by the storm.

“We need to start taking it more seriously. . . . We have to realize that this is not a one-time thing,” King said Wednesday afternoon via phone. “We have to be smarter about what we’ve done wrong and how we need to fix it, but also not repeating those problems by continuing to build too close to the ocean or build too high or build in a way that is not sustainable.”

Upcountry, East Maui and South Maui were the communities impacted the most, enduring major rainfall, flooding and extended power and water outages in some cases. Damage assessments are being conducted to estimate costs for repairs needed to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, county spokesperson Brian Perry said.

South Kihei Road reopened to local traffic only from North Kihei Road to Kaonoulu Street after parts of the road were “undermined”during the heavy rains and left some pipes exposed. Debris on the road shoulder is making it “unsafe to return normal traffic flow to that section of roadway,” Perry said.

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