High surf lingers in Hector’s wake

Motorists navigate debris on Honoapiilani Highway as a wave breaks over a row of concrete Jersey barriers in Olowalu on Thursday afternoon. The high surge caused by Hurricane Hector and the peaking king tide forced state highway crews into action and snarled traffic in both directions. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

The Maui News

A high-surf advisory for south-facing shores of Maui, Molokai and Lanai was expected to remain in effect until 6 a.m. today, the National Weather Service reported.

Waves generated by the passage of Hurricane Hector peaked larger than expected on Thursday, forecasters said. Surf heights were estimated to be from 6 to 9 feet along south shores in Maui County, according to the county Emergency Management Agency.

It warned that strong breaking waves and rip currents would make swimming difficult and dangerous.

Surf heights were expected to drop off quickly today, weather officials said.

A wave sweeps toward Honoapiilani Highway in Olowalu on Thursday afternoon

The Maui Police Department reported waves washing over the Honoapiilani Highway between Kai Hele Ku Street and Ukumehame at about 3 p.m. Thursday.

Later Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that all commercial ports had reopened, with all normal vessel and cargo operations resuming to Maui, Honolulu and Hawaii counties as of 5 p.m. Wednesday. Nevertheless, mariners were advised to watch for strong winds and storm surge.

As of 2 p.m. Thursday, the Category-3 hurricane was about 415 miles southwest of Honolulu, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center reported in Honolulu. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 120 mph, and the storm was moving west at 16 mph. A gradual turn toward the west-northwest was expected Thursday night through late today.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for Johnston Island. If it remains on its forecasted track, Hector would pass 100 to 200 miles north of Johnston Island late today. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 35 miles from Hector’s eye, and tropical-storm-force winds may go out as far as 90 miles.

There were no watch conditions for the main Hawaiian Islands.

Traffic backs up on the Lahaina bypass or Highway 3000 on Thursday afternoon, a result of high surf washing over parts of Honoapiilani Highway. Travel time from Lahaina town to Kihei was reported to be two hours in the late afternoon.

Weather service radar images showed a swath of moisture over Upcountry, Central and West Maui at 2 p.m. Thursday. Relative humidity at Kahului Airport was reported between 94 and 100 percent between 5:54 a.m. and 1:54 p.m. The high temperature at Kahului Airport was 86 degrees and at Molokai Airport it was 83, but with the high humidity it felt hotter.

Rain gauges for the 24-hour period ending at 1 p.m. Thursday showed 2.81 inches at West Wailuaiki above the Keanae peninsula, 1.65 inches at Haiku, 1.16 inches on Lanai and 0.9 inch at Puu Alii on Molokai.

The rain triggered a brown-water advisory for Maui by the state Department of Health on Thursday afternoon. The public was advised to stay out of floodwaters and stormwater runoff due to possible overflowing cesspools, sewers and manholes.

The runoff could contain pesticides, animal fecal matter, dead animals, pathogens, chemicals and debris.

Not all coastal areas may be impacted by runoff, but if the water is brown stay out, the Health Department said.

A tree branch fell on power lines causing an outage from Waiehu to Kahakuloa for about two hours Thursday afternoon, Maui Electric Co. reported.

Meanwhile, a magnitude 4.3 earthquake struck the southern flank of the Kilauea volcano at 6:51 a.m. Thursday. It did not generate a tsunami warning, however. One person reported light shaking in Lahaina.

For weather updates, call (866) 944-5025 or go to weather.gov/hawaii.