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Storm-ravaged nursery digs out once again


    Debris collected and blocked the water flow under the bridge on Kamehameha Highway near the Waiahole Poi Factory during Saturday's heavy rainstorm. Despite cracks in the foundation, state transportation officials said the bridge is sound.

    Harvey Ota, left, and Nathan Miranda assess flood damage to Waiahole Botanicals nursery.

Damage to one Windward Oahu nursery from Saturday’s thunderstorms was estimated at $250,000, affecting several thousand seedlings.

Debbie Miranda, who owns and operates Waiahole Botanicals with her husband near Kahana Valley State Park, said it was the fourth time since they bought the 4.5-acre nursery eight years ago that floodwaters had overrun their operations.

In 2006 when the islands were inundated by 40 days of rain, Miranda said the nursery’s loss was set at $40,000.

"This time it is at least three times as much," she added, "and we are still paying off that loan."

The National Weather Service said 8 to 10 inches deluged the Punaluu-Kahaluu area during a 24-hour period from 3 p.m. Saturday. The storm delivered an estimated 13,387 lightning strikes statewide and even dropped several inches of snow on the Big Island’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. The National Weather Service said water levels at Kahana and Waihee streams rose above record levels.

Miranda estimated that her inventory of tropical plants, which included bamboo, palms, ginger, water lilies and ti plants, was about $1.5 million before the storm.

The challenge now is to find the plants that were washed out of their pots and are scattered throughout the property and replant them as soon as possible to save them.

"Some were found in the bay and along the road," she said.

"The majority of them are on the property somewhere," Miranda.

The nursery, 48-166 Kamehameha Highway, also lost several thousand seedlings that were washed away from benches in greenhouses.

Saturday night the water rose so quickly — up to 4 feet in some places — that Miranda’s family was unable to leave home because the road was flooded and had to take refuge on higher ground away from the house.

Following the storm at least two acres of the nursery were underwater, making it hard for the Mirandas to assess how much was lost.

"Until we dig out the mud and silt, we won’t know exactly what we lost," she said.

Shelly Ichishita, state Civil Defense spokeswoman, said an assessment team inspected the area Monday and visited three businesses and 16 homes and returned to the area yesterday. She said Windward Oahu homeowners and businesses needing assistance should contact the American Red Cross.

Dan Meisenzahl, Department of Transportation spokesman, said the state is assessing the bridge over Waiahole Stream on Kamehameha Highway near the Waiahole Poi Factory where there were reports of heavy accumulation of storm debris.

He said the area was cleared of debris in February and again last month.

If needed, a private contractor will be called in to clear the storm debris.

Despite reports of cracks in the bridge, Meisenzahl said the structure is "sound."

He said the state plans to spend $11 million in either 2015 or 2016 to replace the bridge, bringing it into compliance with current standards.

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