HILO — Damage to county facilities from the flooding late last month caused by torrential downpours from Hurricane Lane totaled about $20 million, said Managing Director Wil Okabe on Thursday.
Okabe said the damage estimate is for county infrastructure and doesn’t include damage to state infrastructure, such as schools and highways.
An example stated by Okabe was a damaged culvert adjacent to the county’s Mohouli Park in Hilo.
“That culvert alone is $400,000 estimated cost,” he said.
The county is still cleaning up its facilities from the flooding caused by Lane, which throughout a four-day period dumped as much as 50 inches of rain in some areas of East Hawaii. The county said Thursday that the Department of Parks and Recreation is closing Coconut Island (Moku Ola) in Hilo today so maintenance personnel can remove debris associated with the hurricane.
Gov. David Ige on Sept. 6 asked President Donald Trump to declare a major disaster for Hawaii as a result of the impacts from Lane, which wreaked havoc statewide from Aug. 22-29.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse the state and county 75 percent for damage to public infrastructure from a declared disaster.
“The magnitude and severity of the disaster requires federal assistance,” Ige said in a statement announcing his request. “This exceeds the state’s response capability, and it has impacted local governments.”
In addition to aid for disaster recovery, the governor also asked for 100 percent federal funding for the first 72 hours of Lane’s impacts.
“We’re doing our best to try to mitigate the situation, to try to work with the state and the federal government to try to get them to document (damage) as quickly as possible, so we can get some type of relief for people who are affected … to try to expedite the situation as quickly as possible,” Okabe said.
Okabe said assessments documented 152 homes damaged, with 29 sustaining major damage. None were destroyed.
Despite the damage, it’s not yet clear whether federal relief aid will be provided.
“On individual assistance, from (prior) experience, it doesn’t look like … enough homes that were damaged,” said Diane Ley, the county’s Research and Development director. “But because we’ve had a recent disaster with the lava, the case was made that … businesses and homes were impacted by that. With the federal declaration for the lava event, that was a significant disaster for the county and for the residents and businesses in the county. The other factor, generally, the income level tends to be on the lower scale, so a case was made that some of the population may be economically distressed. So the state went ahead and made that submittal to the federal government.
“Now, whether or not the government weighs that and says, ‘OK, you can have individual assistance’ — if they do, great. Homeowners could qualify for assistance from FEMA. Then, when the individual assistance kicks in, businesses, although they don’t qualify for FEMA assistance, they could qualify for Small Business Administration loans.”
An estimated 30 businesses also reported damage from Lane’s flooding, Okabe said.
“I think the state is trying to look at every opportunity to plead their case with the president in regards to economic factors, the fact that we just had a devastating situation with the lava,” Ley said.
“These families really need assistance.”