Heavy rain, winds pass, but giant surf remains

Heavy rain, high altitude winds and big surf Wednesday kept people off some beaches and out of the ocean in South and West Maui, caused a power outage and shut down at least one roadway for several hours.

The cold front that brought the rain Wednesday headed toward the Big Island, bringing drier and cooler conditions today and into the weekend on Maui, the National Weather Service said.

The giant surf is expected to stay around until Friday morning with high-surf warnings posted for the north shore of Maui and the north and west shores of Molokai. Surf is predicted to be in the 40-to-50 foot range along north shores and in the 20-to-30 foot range along west shores.

Hana Highway, the main road through Paia from Central Maui, was backed up for several miles at midmorning Wednesday, possibly due to people heading to the north shore to see the heavy surf, said Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone. There were no reports of road closures due to accidents, police said.

Maui County Ocean Safety officials reported Wednesday afternoon that Hookipa in East Maui had 40-foot wave faces with some bigger sets. Out in West Maui, Honolua Bay had 15-foot faces and D.T. Fleming Beach Park had 8-foot faces.

While not under high-surf warnings or advisories, the waves also were big on South Maui shores, officials said. Beaches in Kihei saw 6-foot waves and at Oneloa Beach in Makena, also known as Big Beach, surf was in the 6-to-8 foot range.

The National Weather Service cautioned people from getting close to the shoreline and advised property owners along the shore to take precautionary measures during high-surf warnings.

In South and West Maui, people were warned to stay out of the water for sanitation reasons. The state Department of Health on Wednesday afternoon issued a brown water advisory for Kihei from Kealia Pond to Kamaole Beach Park II. Also under advisory were stretches of coastline from Ukumehame to Honolua that included Honokahua Bay.

The Health Department advised the public to stay out of water in the areas because heavy rains Wednesday may have caused cesspools and sewer manholes to overflow. The water may contain pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens and chemicals.

The turbid water runoff also has been known to attract sharks due to possible dead animals being washed into the ocean, the state said.

Much of the rain on Maui fell late Tuesday night and in the early-morning hours Wednesday, rain gauges showed.

Areas receiving the most rain in a 24-hour period ending at 2 p.m. Wednesday were Kaupo Gap with 5.81 inches, Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains at 3.52 inches, one of two Kula gauges reporting 3.43 inches and Ulupalakua reporting 2.39 inches, according to the weather service.

On Molokai in the same period, 1.83 inches fell at a gauge north of Kawela and 1.08 inches fell at the Kaunakakai mauka gauge.

A gauge on Lanai showed 0.61 inches of rain.

Rain also was heavy enough in the Kaupo area to close a portion of Piilani Highway at Nuu Landing for several hours Wednesday morning because of water on the highway.

High winds in West Maui around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday caused a power outage that affected about 1,300 customers in Napili, Maui Electric Co. said. Tree branches hitting the lines caused the outage; power was restored shortly after 6 a.m., MECO said.

Sustained high winds of 50 mph or more at the summit of Haleakala on Wednesday forced park officials to stop allowing high-profile vehicles, those with 15 passengers or more, from entering the park for at least a couple of hours, said Polly Angelakis, the park’s chief of interpretation and education, in an email.

The Coast Guard also put out an advisory for mariners to prepare for high surf by:

* Staying informed, being aware of weather conditions and monitoring the progress and strength of the storm.

* Wearing life jackets while on the water.

* Filing a float plan with friends, family members and local marinas before heading out; the plan should include a list of passengers and an itinerary.

* Having a working VHF radio aboard.

* Carrying marine flares.

* Ensuring bilge pumps are operational and vessels are secure for heavy wind and rain.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.