County officials begin assessing damage from Tropical Storm Olivia
A day after Tropical Storm Olivia’s historic roll through Maui Nui, the county began cleaning up and assessing the toll Thursday with reports of floodwaters causing damage in Honokohau Valley and Waihee.
“We don’t have a number yet at this point,” said Managing Director Keith Regan when asked about total damage from Olivia.
But most of the damage appears to be water and flood related and not from the wind, said Regan on Thursday afternoon, hours after he and other county officials did an assessment of Maui and Lanai by helicopter.
“It was very obvious that Waihee Valley (had) a lot of heavy rainfall and water, flooding damages,” Regan said. “Also Honokohau Valley, another place with a lot of heavy flooding water-related damages out there.”
Residents in Honokohau Valley reported Wednesday afternoon that more than a dozen homes and properties in the valley were flooded by Honokohau Stream. There were reports of vehicles washing away.
Flying in a Black Hawk helicopter from the Hawaii National Guard, Regan also was able to view the damage on Lower Honoapiilani Road in Kahana, where floodwaters “topped over” a culvert. He said that the road is closed and that it will take some time for repairs to be done.
Still overall, Maui County was “very, very fortunate,” he said.
“That storm was so erratic and unpredictable,” Regan said. “The way it was moving it initially was looking like it would hit Central Maui; it would have really caused a lot of widespread damage.
“It’s unfortunate what happened to our residents on the west side and north shore, (but) we are very fortunate the storm wasn’t as it had been predicted.”
That does not mean, though, that Olivia did not leave a mark. As Maui County returned to normal after being shut down Wednesday with schools, government offices and many businesses closed, 700 customers on Molokai still were without power Thursday and Kilohana Elementary was the only public school in the state still closed because of the outage.
MECO crews were working Thursday evening in Molokai’s Kaluakoi area to restore power to 300 customers. Based on damage assessments made Thursday morning and the nature of the repair work, MECO advised residents to prepare for the outages to extend into today.
Repair conditions appeared to be more difficult on the east end of the island, as trees continue to fall on utility poles and bring down more lines due to the saturated ground, MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker explained. Molokai crews, along with workers from Maui, were making repairs Thursday night but “due to the extensive damages and repair work involved, full restoration cannot be completed by this evening,” she said.
“Olivia dealt a devastating blow to Molokai, and we know everyone who was affected wants life and business to return to normal as soon as possible,” said Sharon Suzuki, president of MECO. “We have deployed additional crews and resources, and we won’t stop working until every customer’s electricity is back on.”
A majority of 100 customers affected by pocket outages on Maui were restored Wednesday night with crews working Thursday to bring six remaining customers back online in the Waihee area, MECO said.
D.T. Fleming Park in Lahaina was closed Thursday due to heavy water damage and tree debris, said Maui County spokesman Rod Antone. He said it would remain closed until further notice.
All state parks were open, except for Polipoli State Recreation Area, which had been closed pre-Olivia for roadway maintenance and improvements.
Several state forest reserves remained closed due to downed trees and erosion, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife said.
Makawao Forest Reserve was closed Thursday due to downed trees; crews were working to remove them. The Poelua Road access to the Kahakuloa Game Management Area is not passable but the Waikalae access road is open.
The Kula Forest Reserve remains closed through Nov. 2 for annual maintenance.
The Molokai Forest Reserve Road is not passable due to downed trees and the entrance will remain closed until the middle of next week while crews remove hazards.
All shelters in Maui County were closed by Thursday afternoon, a county official said. The Red Cross reported 24 people Wednesday night in the last shelter open at the Lahaina Civic Center.
Tropical Storm Olivia made landfall at 9:10 a.m. Wednesday near Kahakuloa. On a path over the West Maui Mountains, the tropical storm made landfall again, this time 6 miles northeast of Lanai City at 9:54 a.m. After passing through Maui County, Olivia headed away from the islands, south of Oahu and out to sea.
Olivia had weakened to a post-tropical low with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. It was 520 miles west-southwest of Kahului at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The landfall was historic, according to National Weather Service officials. It was the first time since modern records have been kept that a tropical storm has made landfall on Maui.
Olivia also broke a rainfall record at Kahului Airport on Tuesday. The 0.56 inch that fell broke the record for the day of 0.31 inch set in 1991.
Maui’s Emergency Management Agency began sending out teams to survey damage Thursday, Regan said. The teams will continue to do surveys today, and Regan encouraged residents who suffered damage to report it to the Maui Emergency Management Agency by phone at 270-7285 or by filling out a report at www.mauicounty.gov/FormCenter/Civil-Defense-Forms-2/Report-Storm-Related-Damage-StormFlood-E-87.
The reports will help officials conduct assessments.
From what he could see from the air, Regan said there wasn’t major damage on Lanai and no apparent erosion on the 2,000 acres that burned in the West Maui fires Aug. 24.
They could not perform an aerial assessment over Molokai, but Regan said teams on foot would be conducting assessments there.
Mayor Alan Arakawa flew over East Maui on Thursday and reported that landslides and debris had been cleared from Hana Highway and that traffic was flowing.
Olivia was the second system to put the county and state on alert in the past three weeks. Hurricane Lane appeared to be on track to hit the islands but veered off as it neared.
“We ask people to continue to be prepared and remain vigilant,” Regan said. “Be aware of what’s happening out there.”
He reminded everyone that hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.