Updated 9 p.m.: Tropical storm watch up for Maui County

A tropical storm watch was posted Thursday for Maui and Hawaii counties as Darby moved to 600 miles east-southeast of Kahului as of 5 p.m., the National Weather Service said.

The tropical storm, whose current predicted path tracks through Maui County, had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and was moving west at about 13 mph. The tropical storm’s wind strength was not expected to change in the next two days and was not expected to be weakened by making landfall, the weather service said.

Tropical-storm-force winds extended outward 105 miles from the center.

Heavy rain from Darby was expected to reach portions of Maui County late Friday and possibly cause flash flooding and rock and mud slides, the weather service said. A flash-flood watch is in effect from late Friday to Sunday afternoon.

“Approaching Darby could bring excessive rainfall with potential for significant flash flooding,” the weather service said.

The greatest risk of flash flooding will be to east- and southeast-facing slopes. The weather service also said that heavy rain may cause flooding to areas outside of designated flood zones and may make roads dangerous to travel.

Brown water advisories for Honokahua and Honolua bays on the west side were issued Thursday by the state Health Department Clean Water Branch. The public is advised to stay out of floodwaters and storm water runoff due to possible overflowing cesspools, sewer manholes, pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens, chemicals and other flood debris.

Surf is expected to reach damaging levels along coastlines Friday and Saturday, the weather service said. A high-surf advisory is up for east-facing shores of Maui through 6 a.m. Friday with a high-surf warning taking effect from that time to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Surf heights are expected to reach 12 to 20 feet with occasional higher sets after building Thursday through this morning. The surf is expected to remain high through Saturday. Beach-goers were advised to expect ocean surges and sweeping waves across beaches, and swimmers are warned of longshore and rip currents, the weather service said.

While the most recent computer storm forecast model put Maui County in the cone of probability of the track of Darby — with the center of the storm hitting Maui County at 2 p.m. Sunday — the weather service advises the public not to focus too closely on the exact track because the average tracking error three days out is 100 miles. In addition, dangerous conditions can extend far from the center of the storm.

Capt. Michael Long, Coast Guard Sector Honolulu captain of the port, set heavy weather condition X-Ray for all Maui island ports Thursday due to the projected path of Darby. That means that all ocean-going commercial vessels and ocean-going barges heavier than 200 gross tons must make plans to depart the port area if they do not have permission by the captain of the port to remain. Cargo operations will need to be completed by Friday.

Due to gale-force winds generated by Darby, waterfront facilities should remove potential flying debris, hazardous materials and oil pollution hazards from dockside areas, the Coast Guard said. Additionally, all hazardous materials and potential sources of pollution should to be secured due to anticipated heavy rain runoff.

Recreational boaters should secure boats and equipment, the Coast Guard said. Owners of large boats are urged to move their vessels to protected marinas where they are less likely to break free of their moorings or be otherwise damaged. It may be advisable for smaller boats to be pulled from the water and stored in a location not prone to high winds or flooding.

The county urged residents to prepare for the storm by assembling emergency kits and stocking up on seven days worth of food, water and medicine. Other storm-prep tasks include:

  • Monitoring television, radio and other news sources to find out the latest updates on storm conditions. Sign up for the Makaala emergency alert system to receive notifications on mobile devices or phone landlines at the Maui County website, www.mauicounty.gov.
  • Fueling vehicles now so motorists do not have to stop during the storm to fill up.
  • Securing loose objects on property that could become airborne.
  • Having an evacuation plan ready, especially those living in flood inundation areas. If residents need to leave their homes, they should identify ahead of time a safe location to go and wait out the storm.

Also, high winds knock down power lines frequently during storms, so be prepared for widespread power outages. To report a fallen power line or outage, call Maui Electric’s trouble line at 871-7777 on Maui and toll-free on Molokai and Lanai at (877) 871-8461.

The Maui Civil Defense Agency will be monitoring the situation Friday and throughout the weekend. Pre-recorded advisories and notifications are available 24-hours a day on the Maui County Automated Information System by calling 986-1200. Online updates may be found on the county website or by checking the county Facebook or Twitter feeds at www.facebook.com/countyofmaui/ or twitter.com/CountyofMaui.