The state and county closed parks Thursday, and schools around Maui County will close today as a cold front pushing strong, gusty winds threatened the isles with gale force winds.
Gov. Linda Lingle and Mayor Charmaine Tavares on Thursday ordered all nonessential state and county workers to remain at home today, anticipating the severe south winds would make driving hazardous.
With nonessential county employees staying home, closed county facilities include all landfills, Motor Vehicle and Licensing Division offices, senior centers, pools and the Waiehu Golf Course.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Windsurfers, kitesurfers and a few hardy surfers navigate the windblown waves of Hookipa Beach Park on Thursday afternoon. The big surf foreshadowed the arrival of strong winds from a cold front threatening the islands.
The National Weather Service posted a high wind warning for the northern islands of Kauai, Oahu and Molokai on Thursday afternoon, with a wind advisory posted for Lanai and Maui.
The front was within 150 miles of Kauai at 4 p.m. Thursday and was expected to sweep over that island early this morning, bringing wind gusts up to 60 mph, before moving on to Oahu and Molokai this afternoon. The weather service said the strongest winds will be just ahead of and along the front, a mass of cold air associated with a series of low-pressure centers generating even stronger winds in the North Pacific.
Small-craft warnings were also posted for offshore waters around and between the islands. The low-pressure centers northwest of the islands also were pushing strong swells into north and west shores, prompting high-surf warnings for all of the islands through tonight.
WINDY WEATHER SHUTDOWN
* No curbside trash collection
* No meals-on-wheels delivery or assisted transportation services by Kaunoa Senior Center
* County swimming pools
* Waiehu Golf Course
* County's Customer Service Center at the Maui Mall
* Division of Motor Vehicle and Licensing offices
* Kula Forest Reserve / Polipoli Springs Recreation Area
* Maui Bus service will continue
The Department of Land and Natural Resources ordered the Kula Forest Reserve and Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area closed at 3:30 p.m. Thursday because of the threat of high winds.
"We are closing this mountain forest reserve to protect the public's safety since high winds could cause trees to fall, block the access road and pose a risk to anyone in the forest," said Chairwoman Laura Thielen. "Following the storm, an assessment will be made and any necessary clearing work of downed trees will begin."
State enforcement officers and forestry crews were notifying people to leave the state park areas Thursday afternoon.
In West Maui, a 42-foot long sailboat washed ashore near the Canoes Restaurant on Thursday morning after its mooring failed in the high winds, said Lahaina Harbormaster Hal Silva. He said the winds were blowing 15 to 20 mph.
The privately owned ketch suffered damage to its hull and was being repaired Thursday afternoon, he said.
At the harbor, a cruise ship anchored offshore was unable to disembark passengers because of the rough ocean. The Golden Princess cruise ship was scheduled to allow passengers to go onshore at Lahaina Harbor, but the captain feared the weather conditions would deteriorate Thursday afternoon, making it unsafe for passengers who would need to use a tender to get back to the ship.
Silva said the ship's captain was concerned about having a large number of passengers onshore during the one-day stop before going on to Ensenada, Mexico. If they were unable to reboard, they would have to be flown to Ensenada.
The ketch aground off Lahaina town was attended to by its owners as well as Coast Guard marine safety officers, Silva said. He said the boat's owners arranged for repairs as well as removal of fuel and other potential pollutants from the vessel.
An official with the Maui District office of the Department of Education said the district office will be open today, but all school offices and all public schools will be closed. The Maui District also canceled all scheduled sports activities today and said it would need to assess the situation before deciding whether to hold events on Saturday.
Anyone with questions can call the office at 984-8001.
The DOE in Honolulu said public schools also will be closed on Kauai and Oahu.
On Maui, all Catholic schools, Kaahumanu Hou Christian School and Seabury Hall announced they would close today.
Lingle and Tavares issued notices that workers would be told to stay home today, except for those involved in disaster response, civil defense and other essential services, including staff at state hospitals, police and firefighters.
The county announced there will be no curbside residential trash collection on Maui, Molokai or Lanai, and residents are being asked not to leave their garbage cans or automated cars on the curb until high winds stop. Trash receptacles should be placed in secure areas to prevent them from blowing onto streets.
A Maui County Council regular meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. today was canceled as well as a 2 p.m. meeting of the Affirmative Action Advisory Council.
Kaunoa Senior Center will not provide meals-on-wheels or assisted transportation services today. All congregate nutrition sites will be shut down today.
Kepaniwai Park, Kalepolepo Beach Park, 4th Marine Park and all county campgrounds will not be open. All county parks programs are canceled today.
The Maui Bus, however, will continue providing service.
For updated county information, go online to www. mauicounty.gov and click on Latest News.
At Haleakala National Park, a spokesman said the park expects to remain open today, but he recommended that visitors check on conditions this morning by calling 572-4400.
The system threatening the state already had pumped up the winds Thursday with a southwesterly wind flow that had winds blowing up to 41 mph in Kahului.
Typically on Maui, surface winds blowing through the central isthmus will increase in intensity as they funnel between the mountains. With the southwesterly wind, Maalaea recorded winds of 20 to 30 mph while Kahului was blowing 30 to 40 mph.
Lihue Airport on Kauai recorded gusts up to 33 mph as of 5 p.m., but Honolulu International Airport reported lighter winds of 15 to 20 mph through the afternoon.
The weather service said the front will weaken as it moves across the island chain and the Big Island is not expected to experience the severe wind gusts buffeting the other islands.
Ahead of the front, the weather should be stable with mostly clear skies but the possibility of scattered showers ahead of the system. As it passes over, the frontal band will bring heavy showers, but the system is expected to move off quickly, reducing the chances of flooding.