Mayor: Preparation pays off
Parts of Haiku still were without water and small pockets of residents had no power Tuesday evening a day after Tropical Depression Flossie rolled across Maui with a lightning and thunder show that joined with rain and wind to knock down utility lines and trees, flood roads and cancel airline flights.
Despite the fury of the storm, public safety officials reported no major damage or injuries.
There was a confirmed lightning strike at a home in Kahului that caused $1,000 in damage, a light post knocked down at the The Westin Maui Resort & Spa in Kaanapali and a close call in Maui Meadows when water from a clogged stream bed came near to a home but was diverted before causing any damage.
“We’re glad all of our departments managed to pull together and prepare for Flossie, this could have been a lot worse,” said Mayor Alan Arakawa in an email statement Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve never in all my years seen a lightning storm like we saw (Monday) from the rooftop of the county building.
“Our residents did a great job preparing as well. We didn’t see any of this sort of mad, last-minute rush to fill gas tanks or buy groceries. I thought people used the time before the storm to prepare and it paid off (Monday) night. Many thanks to everyone for all their hard work in keeping each other safe.”
Maui Electric Co. said late Tuesday afternoon that an estimated 150 customers still were without power.
Areas affected included small pockets of customers in Kula, Haiku, Makawao, Wailuku and Kahului, where transformer damage or downed lines were the cause of the power outages, MECO said.
Throughout the day Tuesday, MECO workers repaired electrical lines and replaced damaged transformers and downed utility poles from the storm.
More than 9,800 customers were without power after the storm passed Monday afternoon and evening – including all of Molokai – but half of the customers were back online at 9:45 that evening. An additional 4,000 customers had their power restored by 3 a.m. Tuesday.
MECO said lightning strikes to electrical equipment – including one to Molokai’s only power plant – and fallen tress were the main culprits for the outages.
MECO thanked the public and asked for patience.
“We’d like to thank the public for their patience as we work to bring these last few customers back online,” said Transmission & Distribution Manager Joe Kentz late Tuesday afternoon. “Please know that we are doing everything possible to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.”
One of those still without power, Guy Lawrence of Kahului, ran his generator for about three hours Tuesday morning, after his electricity went out around 6 p.m. Monday. Thinking the power would return quickly, he didn’t run his generator Monday night.
But when he awoke Tuesday morning, the electricity wasn’t on so he switched on his generator “just in case.”
“I was worried about my food and stuff,” he said.
Other residents in the area west of the Kahului Community Center were worried about their frozen and refrigerated food and whether it was still cold enough to keep Tuesday with their electricity out from Monday evening. By around 2 p.m., the power was back on and their steaks were still frozen, residents reported.
Some Haiku residents were without water Tuesday after power outages there led to the shutdown of Haiku wells. Consequently, the Kokomo and Kaupakalua tanks were emptied by users, the county said.
The county advised those in the Haiku area to conserve water.
Those without water could visit water tanker trucks with potable water in Haiku at the top section of the Hanzawa Store parking lot near Awalau Road. A second water tanker truck was at Puuomalei Road off Kokomo Road, the county said.
Those affected by the water problem included residents living on the following roads: Kokomo, Kaupakalua, Kauhikoa, Awalau and Lilikoi as well as all adjoining roads or streets.
The Public Works Department advised motorists to expect closures and delays along Piilani Highway in southeast Maui over the next day or so as crews continued to inspect and repair roads and bridges, according to a county news release.
Hana police reported no injuries or substantial damage from the storm.
But Piilani Highway southwest of Hana was closed near Nuu and Pahihi because debris made the road impassable.
There were intermittent road closures on Hana Highway at Mile Marker 28 in Nahiku while Hawaiian Tel and MECO crews did repairs. Traffic was being allowed in alternating directions Tuesday.
Police said drivers traveling to and from Hana could expect delays.
There also was a problem with Upcountry refuse pickups Tuesday because of street closures due to a low-hanging cable line. Those affected were on Kekahi, Kalua and Kekolu places and Hemala Street. Trash will be collected Thursday for those residents.
While residents dealt with power and water outages, others were cleaning up after the storm.
Pat Borge of Makena Stables in South Maui said his horse trails were washed out, and he was busy cleaning up mud and debris that came with Monday’s “big, big rain.”
“I think that’s the worse I seen in a long time,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
“I thought I was going to float away. I got my boat ready,” he later joked.
Borge said that Tuesday he and other workers saw debris piles 4 to 5 feet high around the La Perouse Bay area. He said the rubbish was swept down to the shoreline by Monday’s heavy rains. He added that mud was all over the road.
Both Maui Visitors Bureau and Maui Hotel & Lodging Association executive directors Terryl Vencl and Lisa Paulson, respectively, reported Tuesday that they had not heard of any major problems with travelers or damage at hotels and resorts.
“If there was a good thing about this one, we had time to prepare,” Vencl said. “With the preparations that was done throughout the two days before (the system hit), we were probably as ready as could be.”
Vencl said various hotels had a “distressed rate” or special rates for those that had or wanted to extend their stay on Maui.
“The biggest issue was for a while, we thought we had kind of escaped it (Flossie). That thunderstorm didn’t roll in until 5:30, there were people at the airport,” she said.
She added that tourists may have gone to seek shelter at War Memorial Gym in Wailuku because they did not want to drive back to the resort areas during the storm.
She added that most tourists were re-booked on Tuesday flights after some flights were canceled Monday.
State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said Tuesday that Kahului Airport had a temporary power outage during the time of the heavy rain, thunder and lightning Monday. But the airport continued to run on backup power.
During the disturbance, several flights were delayed or diverted back to Honolulu,
she said. By 8 p.m. Monday, operations were back to normal, and flights resumed, she said.
By 8 a.m. Tuesday, all eight emergency shelters in Maui County were closed. Shelters in Molokai, Lanai and Pukalani were closed earlier at 10:30 p.m Monday, according to the American Red Cross.
As of midnight Monday, 22 people sought refuge at the War Memorial Gym; 11 at Kamalii Elementary School in Kihei; eight at the Lahaina Civic Center and four at Hana High School.
Laura Stevens with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said that there were no reports of damage at the state’s small boat harbors, including Maalaea and Lahaina. The harbors were open as usual Tuesday.
There were no reports of damage at Kahului Harbor, which had been shutdown at midnight Sunday by the Coast Guard and reopened at about 6 p.m. Monday, Sluyter added.
The state had closed state parks, hiking trails and forests Monday and most had reopened Tuesday.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the state reported that the only state park on Maui to sustain damage was East Maui’s Waianapanapa State Park, which had fallen trees, branches and debris that needed clearing.
Volunteers helped staff clear the area, though the park still was without power Tuesday afternoon. Stevens said the park and cabins will remain closed until power returns.
Possibly reopening today are the black sand portion of Makena State Park and Polipoli State Park, she said.
Arakawa wanted to remind residents that hurricane season is not over yet, and that if residents haven’t put together their emergency kits yet, now is a good time to do so.
Already the National Weather Service is tracking a Tropical Storm Gil in the Pacific Ocean, off the tip of Southern California, he said. It is expected to move farther out to sea and strengthen over the next couple of days.
“Now is a good time to prepare,” Arakawa said. “Even if it never hits us, we should still act as if it could be a possibility, because it is.”
* Staff Writer Lila Fujimoto contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.