Ana provides a light show

Thunder and lightning from Hurricane Ana raged overhead late Saturday night, frightening some South Maui residents and causing others to photograph the spectacle.

The weather phenomena began around 9 p.m. and lasted past midnight with multiple lightning strikes consistently hitting the south end of the island. National Weather Service forecasters said a single cell developed above the county and caused the light show.

Sebastian Sayegh of Wailea said he was at home when he saw the lightning and decided to drive to Makena Cove to take photos.

“I told my mom I was going out, and she was nervous,” he said. “I don’t think she really wanted me to go.”

Sayegh packed up his camera, tripod, two lenses, a plastic tarp for his camera and a towel. After climbing down some rocks, he set up his camera and began shooting until lightning struck “so close and so bright” that it blew out one of his photos.

“It was the first time I had ever been really scared of lightning,” he said. “It was the loudest boom I had ever heard. It was like a bomb had gone off.

“I ran under some cover and then I was like, ‘I want to get at least one clean shot of this lightning storm’ so I went back out and got closer to shore.”

Sayegh, a film student at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, wound up taking another 40 photos before getting a shot of four lightning strikes in the distance.

“I had never gotten a clean shot like that before,” he said. “Yeah I was pretty scared, but I always say, ‘Do it for the shot.’ So it was worth it in the end.”

Residents and tourists dining in Kihei were treated to dinner and a show Saturday night.

Luke Alcon, manager at the 5 Palms Restaurant, said patrons walked down to Keawakapu Beach and onto the lawn to watch the lightning. He added that the restaurant’s kitchen staff and servers joined the crowd as well.

“Everyone took turns coming out and watching,” he said.

Darren Byler, a manager at Cafe O’Lei in Kihei, said business was a little slower due to the weather. However, he said, the customers that were there were treated to “quite the show.”

“It was a spectacle,” Byler said. “It was actually kind of eerily dark because the clouds covered all of the stars above and there wasn’t anyone on the road so there weren’t any headlights.

“So when it did go off, it lit up the entire sky.”

Ana was downgraded to a tropical storm Sunday and weather conditions are expected to taper off completely for Maui County today, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

A high-surf advisory was canceled for south-facing shores of Maui, Lanai and Kahoolawe, with heights expected to return to normal. The advisory was continued for north-, south- and west-facing shores of Molokai, as well as north-facing shores of Maui until 6 a.m. today.

Beachgoers should exercise caution and expect strong breaking waves, shore break, and strong longshore and rip currents, making swimming difficult and dangerous.

A flood watch had been in effect through Sunday for the county. There were no reports of storm-related flooding or damage.

National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Brenchley of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said Sunday afternoon that the eye of the storm had passed the main Hawaiian Islands and came closest to Niihau – about 70 miles south of the island. He added that if the storm’s route had been 50 miles closer it would have had a “much stronger” impact on the entire state.

“It was a fortuitous track,” he said.

Hurricane season continues through the end of November, and residents are urged to stay aware of the weather.

“We need to keep watching and stay prepared,” Brenchley said.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@mauinews.com.