No major hurricane this time, but stay prepared, vigilant

CHAIR'S 3 MINUTES

A week ago, Maui County could have experienced a severe hurricane. At one point, Hawaii was bracing for the possibility of a Category 4 or 5 storm. Fortunately, wind shear ripped apart Hurricane Lane, leaving us with mostly a wind and rain event.

Most areas were spared from any damage, but there were a few communities sustaining significant impacts. A large sinkhole formed on Puu Way in Haiku after raging water washed away a drainpipe and the road above the drain. Flooding also occurred, notably in East Maui. Final damage assessments are still ongoing.

The most unexpected event, but causing the most destruction, were the three fires in West Maui. Raging winds from the storm led to the most adverse conditions the Maui Fire Department has faced in recent history, causing the fire to spread quickly.

One fire started in Kauaula Valley, burned a total of 1,500 acres, and damaged or destroyed 21 residential structures and approximately 27 vehicles.

Over 100 homes needed to be evacuated and a shelter at Lahaina Intermediate School for the hurricane was forced to be relocated.

Fires also occurred in Maalaea and Kaanapali. No structural damage was reported in Maalaea, with some external damage to a home in the Kaanapali Hillside subdivision.

Work will need to be done to assist those impacted, but the storm could have been much worse under slightly different storm conditions.

A full assessment of the storm is still underway, but if any Maui County residents sustained damage from the storm, they are asked to make a report to Emergency Management personnel at www.mauicounty.gov/emergency.

Reporting this information does not mean a claim is being made, it is to assist in data collection on the impact of the storm. The information will be used to determine if Maui County qualifies for federal or state financial assistance.

Overall, although there were minor hiccups, county personnel did a very good job in both preparation and response to the storm. I appreciate their diligence and efforts.

I would also like to commend residents for their storm preparations. Many did not take this hurricane lightly, and boarded up windows, fueled up their vehicles and appropriately prepared for what could have been a very damaging storm.

Despite our good fortune this time around, hurricane season is still in full swing, with powerful storms brewing in the Central Pacific. The season does not officially end until Nov. 30, leaving three more months to remain vigilant.

More importantly, although hurricanes provide advanced warnings, there are many other natural disasters, such as fires, that do not give the luxury of time. Therefore, always having an emergency kit is important.

With every natural disaster, planning for the worst and hoping for the best is the best course of action.

Let us continue to always hope for the best, but always be prepared. Stay safe, Maui County.

Mahalo.

* Mike White is chair of the Maui County Council. He holds the council seat for the Paia-Haiku-Makawao residency area. “Chair’s 3 Minutes” is a weekly column to explain the latest news on county legislative matters. Go to mauicounty.us for more information.

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