WAILUKU - After a night of suspense, preparation and, for some, seeking higher ground, Mauians saw in the first light of day Friday how an earthquake-generated tsunami had washed in to low-lying areas, damaging homes, boats and harbors and disrupting lives.
There were no reports of injuries or loss of life, said Rod Antone, the county communications director. But flood damage was reported in at least three homes in Kihei and one in Kahului, he said. The Red Cross was responding to provide assistance.
Roads and schools were closed, although most public schools already had been scheduled to be shut for furloughs. Kahului Airport remained open, although roads leading to it were closed, along with most roads near the ocean while there was a risk of tsunami inundation. Most roads were reopened by noon.
A spectator walks along an area of Cove Park drained of water Friday morning in Kihei. Despite warnings to stay away from the coast, many people were drawn to the shore to witness the rare natural phenomenon of a tsunami causing water to quickly recede before washing back toward shore.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
An 8.9-magnitude earthquake off the east coast of northern Japan triggered Pacific-wide tsunami warnings. The tsunami advisory for Hawaii was lifted as of 11:26 a.m. Friday.
At Maalaea Harbor, Antone said, four boats sustained major damage. Substantial damage also was seen at Manele Harbor on Lanai.
Mayor Alan Arakawa took a helicopter flight Friday morning to assess damage. He said he saw substantial damage to Maalaea Harbor and numerous areas where the tidal surge made its way at least 100 yards onshore. In places, highway jersey barriers were pushed aside by the surge of water, he reported.
Near Kanaha Beach Park, Arakawa said, he could see where vegetation had been devastated by the tsunami.
"The wave just ripped a lot of vegetation out of the ground and moved inland," he said.
Arakawa said he and others aboard the helicopter saw homeless people near the mouth of Iao Stream and dispatched authorities to move them out of harm's way.
Department of Water Supply Director Dave Taylor and Department of Public Works Director David Goode took separate helicopter flights to assess damage, the mayor said.
Damage assessments were ongoing Friday, Arakawa said.
A Maui Fire Department crew also did an aerial reconnaissance at 6 a.m., but firefighters saw no evidence of residents in distress from the tsunami, Antone said.
He said he was on Puunene Avenue with county Managing Director Keith Regan and Deputy Communications Director Ryan Piros when the tsunami hit and brought ocean water as far inland as Walgreens at the intersection of Puunene and Kamehameha avenues.
"It was really amazing," he said, adding that they could see the wave surge approaching them. "Before we knew it, it was at our car. We had to jump in and take off."
Antone said officials from the Water Supply and Environmental Management departments took steps to protect electrical facilities at water pump stations and at island wastewater reclamation sites. As of 10 a.m., all those facilities had been returned to normal operation.
The county reported two wastewater overflows discovered around 7:30 a.m. Friday - one in Paukukalo and another in Napili. The Paukukalo spill was of about 40 gallons from a Waiehu Beach Road manhole fronting a pump station and a storm drain, and the other was of an unknown amount from a Lower Honoapiilani Highway manhole fronting a Napili sewage pump station. In both cases, the standing water was removed, and the area of the spill was disinfected.
County officials also received reports of marine life washing ashore in the Kanaha Beach Park area, Antone said.
People were picking up fish and octopuses from the road, he said. A fire crew was dispatched to pick up a 40- to 50-pound sea turtle and return it to the ocean.
Arakawa said he was pleased overall with the county's tsunami response, which included providing shelter to hundreds of residents seeking higher ground.
"We were able to evacuate people literally in the middle of the night," he said.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.