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Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
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7—
Disaster Recovery

THE RECOVERY PERIOD

By the morning of January 1, 1988, the rain had lightened and the floodwaters had begun to abate. A flash flood warning remained in effect, however, for the area from Aina Haina and Waimanalo along the windward and north coasts to Sunset Beach. Even though there had been extensive damage, no loss of life or serious injury had occurred.

Community efforts to return to normalcy began immediately. Residents began the process of salvaging what they could from their homes, digging out mud, and drying out water-soaked possessions. Unfortunately, many of the residents did not have flood insurance to cover the damage to their homes and personal possessions. Only about 2,200 flood insurance policies on homes and businesses were carried at the time throughout the state of Hawaii. One early estimate suggested that only 125 of the more than 1,200 homes damaged in the storm might have been covered by insurance.

On the evening of January 1, Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi signed an emergency disaster declaration requesting recovery assistance from the state. Such a declaration allows public resources to be expended to assist a community to respond to and recover from a disaster event. It is also required as a first step in requesting additional assistance from the state government if local resources are insufficient to handle these responsibilities.

By the next morning, the Red Cross had begun house-to-house damage assessments of the flooded areas in preparation for the opening of its service centers. The service centers provided food, clothing, and household goods; rent for victims who could not live in their damaged residences; medical, nursing, and hospital care; temporary repairs to allow people to return to their homes; and replacement of occupational supplies and equipment lost in the flood. The service centers began taking

Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×

applications on January 5, and on January 6 Red Cross volunteers began home visits to individual families to confirm their need for emergency relief. Through its two service centers, one in Kailua and one in the Hawaii Kai area, the Red Cross visited over 700 families. However, the center serving the Hawaii Kai area was closed on January 9 because only 12 applications for assistance were taken in its 6 days of operation, in contrast to 670 requests filed at the Kailua center.

On January 3, six damage assessment teams consisting of representatives from the state and city civil defense offices as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency began a damage assessment of Oahu. On the basis of this assessment, Hawaii Governor John Waihee signed a state declaration of disaster on the evening of January 3. The declaration made available a variety of state-supported services and funds to repair public property, roads, sewers, water lines, and schools; to provide individual and business loans to flood victims; to allow state income tax relief; and to provide emergency health and sanitation assistance. Through this declaration the state committed $750,000 of its disaster assistance fund and $600,000 of its disaster loan fund to provide relief to victims. Through the Hawaii Department of Planning and Economic Financial Assistance, individual loans of up to $5,000 and business loans of up to $25,000 were made available to victims at 5 percent interest over a 20-year period.

The state's declaration of disaster also activated the Partners for Recovery program, a joint venture between the state and private banks to provide loans to disaster victims. Under this agreement, participating banks pooled funds and made loans available to victims (up to $10,000 to individuals and $50,000 to businesses) at 5 percent interest to cover uninsured losses. The state then guaranteed the loans. In addition to this program, many banks and credit unions made low-interest loans available to clients who had sustained personal or business losses due to flooding.

On January 5, Governor Waihee formally requested that a federal declaration of disaster be approved for the island of Oahu, which had sustained an estimated $34.6 million in damages from the flood, $29 million of which occurred to private property and businesses. President Reagan signed the federal disaster declaration on January 8, providing additional resources to disaster victims. The declaration covered victims who had sustained losses not only from the New Year's Eve flood but also from storm damage dating back to the extremely heavy rains and winds beginning on December 11.

On January 12, three Disaster Assistance Centers (DACs) were opened to take applications from flood victims for recovery assistance. The DACs would combine the majority of relief and recovery resources, allowing victims to visit only one location to receive assistance. The three centers were located in Waimanalo, Koko Head (to serve the Hawaii Kai area), and Kailua. The DAC at Kailua remained open longer than the other two due to a greater number of applicants.

In addition to the relief and recovery assistance from the Red Cross and government sources, a variety of services and goods from the private sector was made available to victims. Food was provided by the Salvation Army and local food

Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×

banks; cleaning supplies and clothing gift certificates were donated by local merchants; and Goodwill gave discounts on household goods. Navy and Marine Corps personnel volunteered to help the elderly and disabled with cleanup activities; the hotel association made vacant rooms available to victims who had been displaced from their homes; a water distributor gave free bottled water to people in areas where the water was unsafe to drink; rental car companies gave discounts to people whose cars were destroyed in the flood; and storage companies provided free storage to victims during the reconstruction of their homes.

Examples of volunteerism were also evident. Some architects offered limited advice about restoration options to victims whose homes were damaged. An outdoor "Flood Aid" concert was held, with all proceeds donated to the Red Cross.

THE EMERGENCE OF CONFLICT

The emergence of an altruistic community frequently occurs following a disaster (Barton, 1969). Outpourings of assistance from throughout the community to disaster victims who have sustained losses are common to all types of natural disasters. This response has been defined as therapeutic, not just for the victims but for the community in general. It temporarily overcomes existing class or social differences between people, fostering an attitude that "we are all in this together." This sentiment was in evidence during the Oahu New Year's Eve floods and in the days following the disaster. Volunteerism, donations, and concern about victims remained high.

This type of response may actually produce changes in the social climate. For example, on the morning of Sunday, January 10, a flash flood watch was issued at 8:00 a.m. for the Kailua area. Residents in one neighborhood that had been heavily damaged on New Year's Eve mobilized to spread the watch notice to sleeping neighbors. This plan had been developed by the neighborhood residents after the New Year's flood disaster. Residents expressed satisfaction with the notification process and with the feeling this activity gave them of being part of a "real community" (Honolulu Advertiser, 1988).

However, this type of altruistic response, beneficial during and immediately following a disaster, can quickly erode. Concerns are raised about the causes of the disaster and questions are asked about the adequacy of the response effort. These conflicts often emerge quickly during the beginning of the recovery period, as victims are confronted with the enormity of putting their lives back in order. In Oahu's disaster the issue of responsibility for the flooding that occurred in Kailua in the early morning hours of January I was the primary source of an emerging conflict.

On January 4 a lawsuit was filed by four Coconut Grove residents whose homes were damaged on New Year's Eve, claiming that the state and the city were negligent in maintaining and operating flood control projects on the windward side

Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×

of Oahu. On January 11 a second lawsuit signed by 175 residents of the same area was filed against the city.

The questions that the plaintiffs raised were: Who was responsible for maintaining the marsh? Did the levee provide adequate protection against flooding? Was the drainage system deficient in design or maintenance? From the perspective of the Kailua flood victims, someone was clearly at fault. Even though they lived in a low-lying, flood-prone area, the residents believed that the levee and the drainage canals would protect them.

In addition, questions were raised about the adequacy of the flood warning and the availability of information. At a community meeting held on January 6, residents confronted city, state, and utility company representatives. They complained that there had been inadequate warning that a flood was imminent. Residents of both the Hawaii Kai and Kailua areas maintained that the warning had either occurred after flooding had already begun (as in the Hawaii Kai area) or that they were never included in any warning (as in the Kailua area).

According to the Oahu Civil Defense Agency's emergency response plans, emergency management personnel do not go on an alert status until after the National Weather Service issues a flood watch. In this case no flood watch was ever issued; instead, a flood warning was the first official NWS notification that any flood problems could exist. Therefore, emergency response personnel were not formally mobilized until after flooding was in progress. Given the combination of late warnings and the New Year's Eve holiday, organization of the emergency response efforts was delayed. Whether dissemination of warnings to the public was satisfactory is a question that is particularly relevant for the Kailua area, which was not affected by a flash flood but by a slowly developing flood situation.

Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×
Page58
Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×
Page59
Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×
Page60
Suggested Citation:"7 DISASTER RECOVERY." National Research Council. 1991. The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1748.
×
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The New Year's Eve Flood on Oahu, Hawaii: December 31, 1987 - January 1, 1988 Get This Book
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The flood that greeted the new year in 1988 brought home the uncomfortable realization that many suburban areas of eastern Oahu are at risk from sudden and, in some cases, unpredictable flooding. Torrential rains fell over the southeastern portion of the island on New Year's Eve, precipitating major flooding in several suburban neighborhoods and resulting in $34 million in damages. Neither the current meteorological capabilities nor the present flood control structures for the Oahu area proved adequate to predict or control the deluge.

This book documents and analyzes the meteorological conditions leading to the torrential rains, the causes and patterns of flooding, the performance of flood control structures in affected areas, the extent of damages, and the effectiveness of the local emergency response and recovery actions. Conclusions and recommendations are drawn from the analyses.

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