Lane could be the largest Maui storm since one in 1980

While Maui County was spared the extensive damage from hurricanes that hit other islands hard in recent years, some longtime residents remember a storm nearly 40 years ago that ripped off roofs, washed cars out to sea, stripped sand from beaches and downed trees and power lines.

The January 1980 kona storm had no official name.

In various accounts, the storm was referred to as the Storm of 1980, the great storm and the epic kona downpour.

It was described as the worst storm on Maui in half a century.

Winds were clocked at 106 mph in Lahaina, 111 mph atop Haleakala and 75 mph in Haiku, as a low-pressure system hovered over the island.

There were reports of roofs torn off buildings, including a house in Waikapu and a greenhouse in Haiku. Half of the roof of a Haiku cannery, now home to Haiku Market Place, collapsed.

Floodwaters ran across South Kihei Road, then the only way in and out of South Maui. Cars were washed out to sea while trying to make it through what became a river next to the old Suda Store.

“I actually watched a Volks-wagen float out into the ocean by Suda Store,” recalled Mayor Alan Arakawa. “The entire area, as far as I could see, was just covered with water.

“It was so spread out. As far as you could see, it was one sheet going to the ocean. That whole area was just one big river. It’s what nightmares are made of.”

West Maui also was cut off when Ukumehame Stream ran through Honoapiilani Highway. And fallen trees crossed Hana Highway, making it difficult for cars to traverse.

Up to 30 boats were destroyed. Wailea and Wahikuli beaches were stripped of sand.

Power was out in areas of the island for up to two weeks.

The Maui News wasn’t published one day when employees couldn’t get to its Wailuku office from their Kihei homes.

Two men died — one when his car washed out to sea and another when his house collapsed in Haiku.

Damage was estimated at $16 million.

Less damage was reported in July 2013 when Tropical Depression Flossie passed over Maui, unleashing an average of 1 to 2 inches of rain along with thunder and lightning.

Statewide, Maui County was the hardest hit by Flossie.

Gusts of up to 53 mph were measured on Kahoolawe, and sustained winds of 33 mph in Kahului were the strongest in the state.

Lightning strikes caused power outages, damage to at least one home in Kahului and injury to a Haiku man who was shocked in his home. Parts of Haiku were without water a day after the storm passed.

Maui County wasn’t as affected as other islands by two major hurricanes that caused extensive damage on Kauai.

In November 1982, Hurricane Iwa generated gusts of more than 100 mph that damaged luxury hotels and condominiums at Poipu on Kauai. The hurricane destroyed buildings and left the island without power.

In September 1992, Hurricane Iniki made landfall on Kauai, destroying and damaging homes. The hurricane caused $1.8 billion in damage and led to six deaths. 

On Maui, three-quarters of the Mala Wharf pier was demolished by Iniki and dozens of boats were destroyed.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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