Pali Highway reopens after crews remove landslide debris, stabilize slope

Kailua-bound lanes of the Pali Highway remain closed after a downed tree.
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 4:34 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:14 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - All Kailua-bound lanes on Pali Highway has been reopened Tuesday following overnight slope stabilization efforts, officials said.

Crews worked overnight to remove landslide debris and stabilize the slope, hoping to reopen all lanes in time for the morning commute.

On Monday afternoon, Kailua-bound lanes of the Pali Highway were closed at Waokanaka Street because of a downed tree and debris on the roadway.

Crews subsequently found five more loose trees.

“As soon as these events are completed, we sent out our staff and our consultants out to start checking the slopes to ensure that in the top 10 areas that we expect or anticipate the rockfalls, we can see what’s going on,” said state Transportation Director Ed Sniffen.

“Pali Highway has three of the highest priority slopes.”

Monday’s landslide is the second in a week on the Pali Highway. State crews have also been clearing loose boulders at Waimea Bay.

And who can forget the 3,000-pound rock that crashed through a Palolo home last month?

Meteorologist Robert Bohlin, of the National Weather Service, said Hawaii’s slopes are inherently dangerous — and that’s even when they are dry.

“When you add moisture to the soil and wind blowing trees around, it can create conditions that cause rocks to fall into the roads,” said Bohlin.

Over the last two months, Oahu has recorded about 3 and 1/2 inches of rain and high winds for long stretches. The conditions are raising the anxiety for residents and drivers in risky areas.

Michael Thomforde lives in Moanalua Valley and his backyard is right up against a hillside.

The Fire Department said the boulder is about 5 feet in height and width.

“It gets a little concerning because you know this house before we bought it, it had slipped about 15,20 years ago, it slipped about six inches,” said Thomforde.

“I am a minister. I do trust in the lord to hold back those boulders. But yeah, the concern is there.”

As for drivers, DOT said its trying to check slope safety in high risk zones.

To report problem areas, call DOT’s Public Affairs Office at 808-587-2160.