By Léo Azambuja
Kaua‘i gets its Garden Isle nickname because of its stunningly verdant, fertile landscape compared to other Hawaiian Islands. But our lush forests, abundant waterfalls and navigable rivers come at a price: rain, lots of rain.
The flooding last month was much more than a reminder of that; it was a catastrophic event that caused many families to lose everything. Several landslides isolated communities on the far reaches of the North Shore. While the flooding affected the whole island, our beautiful Hanalei and the communities north of it got hit the hardest, with more than 27 inches of rain in 24 hours.
Luckily for us, the sun also rises. We’ve seen it after hurricanes ‘Iwa in 1982 and ‘Iniki in 1992, and we’ve seen it after every major flood. Sooner or later, the sun shows face. But the real sunlight in each of these catastrophic events — including last April’s flood — was the gift of aloha from our community.
We may have gotten flooded heavily last month, but our support for each other was never underwater. As soon as images of the weather carnage on the North Shore began to infiltrate into social media platforms, people started offering help for those in need. Several organizations, government agencies, businesses and local residents offered shelter, food, water and even rides out of areas isolated due to landslides. Members of the community quickly set up networks on Facebook to gather volunteers to deliver help. County officials — people who live and thrive here — went to work around the clock to keep everyone safe and informed.
In 1992, I was humbled by the selfless acts during the months following the ‘Iniki devastation. I was just as humbled in the aftermath of last month’s flooding. We may live on an island prone to natural disasters, but our people have a natural disposition to help out each other.
Several landslides and heavily eroded roads will likely put the island on a long road to recovery, no pun intended. But I don’t have a shadow of a doubt we will make it through in one piece, and the island community will become even more cohesive. Perhaps it’s because we realize we are on this tiny rock together, and we all need to support each other for the sake of survival. Perhaps it’s because most of us are compassionate beings by nature. Perhaps it’s because we absorbed the aloha spirit initially spread by Native Hawaiians. Or perhaps it’s all of those things combined.
What’s also remarkable is that not a single human life was lost during the flood. Looking at the horrific images of the destruction left by the torrential rain, it’s hard to grasp we were all accounted for, including the people who were caught in the remote Kalalau Valley.
We may be prone to hurricanes, tsunamis, major flooding and lately, even nuclear missile threats. But we know we will be OK, because we will take care of each other just like we would take care of our own family members.
Our community will always rise, just as bright and warm as the sun. Always.