Olivia rolls through

Tropical storm floods streams, roads; causes outages, closes roads

Kamehameha V Highway at Mile Marker 10 near Kawalo Wharf Road on Molokai was flooded at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. State Department of Transportation photo

Tropical Storm Olivia made landfall near Kahakuloa on Wednesday morning, continued over the West Maui Mountains, and made landfall again northeast of Lanai City about 45 minutes later, flooding and filling streams along the way.

Meteorologist Matthew Foster with the National Weather Service in Honolulu said Wednesday afternoon that Lanai and Molokai took the brunt of the strongest winds from Olivia on its northern periphery, which tends to be the windier side of storms. The weather service still was analyzing the data, but he estimated top wind speeds in the upper range of 40 mph.

Olivia left flooding, road closures, evacuations in Kahana and Waihee Valley, some home damage, and power outages in its wake, but it could have been worse.

“We were lucky in the sense” that Olivia was “speeding up and slowing down” and moving moderately fast overall, Foster said. Slower moving systems cause more damage and flooding.

Olivia made landfall at 9:10 a.m. near Kahakuloa, about 10 miles northwest of Kahului, Foster said. On a path over the West Maui Mountains, the tropical storm made landfall again, this time 6 miles northeast of Lanai City at 9:54 a.m.

Wailuku River runs fast and wide through Happy Valley Wednesday morning. In a 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Wednesday, the Puu Kukui rain gauge in the West Maui Mountains recorded 7.91 inches and the West Wailuaiki gauge reported 9.02 inches. At Puu Alii on Molokai, a rain gauge showed 7.8 inches. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

After passing through Maui County, Olivia headed away from the islands, south of Oahu and out to sea, he said.

At 5 p.m. Wednesday, Olivia was 175 miles west-southwest of Kahului and 140 miles west-southwest of Lanai City, moving west at 20 mph. Maximum wind speed diminished a little during the day, down to 40 mph.

Tropical storm and high-surf warnings were canceled Wednesday afternoon. A high surf advisory for east-facing shores of Maui and Molokai remained in effect until 6 a.m. today and a flash flood watch until this evening.

Maui County was pretty much shut down, as it was for Hurricane Lane almost three weeks ago, with schools, government offices, the post office, banks, the Maui Bus and the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center closed Wednesday. Most government and private-sector services and offices were expected to reopen today.

The county said Wednesday evening that all county offices, county landfills and recycling facilities will reopen today. Maui Bus operations and residential trash pickups will resume as well.

Knee-deep floodwaters rushed out of a drainage ditch into Kahana Stream on Wednesday afternoon, forcing the closure of Lower Honoapiilani Road. KELLY PITZER photo

All county parks and facilities will reopen today with the exception of D.T. Fleming Park in Lahaina, due to water damage and tree debris.

Haleakala National Park will reopen today at 8 a.m. at the Summit District and 1 p.m. at the Kipahulu District. All trails and backcountry will be open, and the park will be issuing camping and cabin permits at 8 a.m. today.

Sunrise viewing, canceled Wednesday and today, will resume Friday. The Pools at Oheo in Kipahulu remain closed.

State forestry lands, reserves and trails will reopen today as will Iao Valley State Monument. Waianapanapa State Park in East Maui will remain closed through at least Friday due to storm damage, the state Department of Land and Natural Resources said Wednesday night.

Forestry land users are asked to watch for hazards caused by Olivia’s winds and rain. Report downed trees, trail washouts and other damage to hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov.

Kelly Pitzer, whose property is next to a drainage ditch that feeds into Kahana Stream, watched the raging waters undermine the road and carry a large banana plant into a guardrail on Wednesday. KELLY PITZER photo

Public schools, except for Kilohana Elementary on Molokai, will reopen today, public school officials said Wednesday evening. After-school programs and interscholastic sports activities will resume.

University of Hawaii Maui College and the UH-Maui College education centers on Lanai, Molokai, Lahaina and Hana will reopen today following closures Wednesday, the UH system announced.

Post offices in Maui County that were closed Wednesday will reopen today.

The Coast Guard Captain of the Port reopened Kahului Harbor, Kaunakakai Harbor and Kaumalapau Harbor on Lanai to vessel traffic at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. Maui County ports were closed Tuesday morning.

Power outages affected 7,900 customers in Upcountry, East Maui and Molokai on Wednesday, said Maui Electric Co. About 6,800 customers in Makawao, Kula, Haiku, Peahi, Huelo, Waipio, Kailua, Keanae, Hanawi, Nahiku and Hana and about 1,100 customers in Kalaupapa and east and west Molokai experienced outages.

By 3 p.m. Wednesday, MECO had restored power to 4,500 customers in Upcountry and 700 customers in Kalaupapa and the west end of Molokai, said MECO spokeswoman Shayna Decker.

The county reported road closures at Waikoloa and Ulaino roads in Hana, Kaumalapau Highway between Ilima and Lanai avenues on Lanai, Hana Highway west of Kawai Ola Place, Iao Valley Road below the Kepaniwai Bridge, Lower Honoapiilani Highway between Puamana Place and Hui Road E, and Piilani Highway at Nuu at Mile Marker 30 in northeast Maui.

Hana Highway was reported open, and Piilani Highway is passable with four-wheel drive vehicles only, county bulletins said. Wednesday night, the county said all roads should reopen overnight with the exception of Lower Honoapiilani Highway at the culvert crossing near Ka’opala Beach. The highway is badly damaged due to flooding and will be closed until further notice.

On Wednesday afternoon, Claire Carroll was among Hana residents who couldn’t get home when Hana Highway was closed at Kawai Ola Place because of a downed tree that was crossing power lines.

She said electricity went out for a couple of hours during heavy rainfall Wednesday morning. When the power came back on, she told her 8-year-old grandson she would go to the store to get milk and cereal for his breakfast.

Carroll was heading back home when she and others were stopped at the road closure as Maui Electric Co. crews worked to replace a utility pole.

She said about 20 people, many of them employees, waited out the road closure while having lunch at the Hana Ranch Restaurant. A resident tried to get home through Waikoloa Road, but it was closed by flooding.

“We have nowhere to go,” Carroll said. “If anybody needs to be commended, it’s everybody who’s out there trying to clear things up.”

She said she called her son, who lives behind her, so her grandson wouldn’t be left alone for long.

After being closed at 12:04 p.m., Hana Highway was cleared at Kawai Ola Place at 1:45 p.m., according to the state Department of Transportation. Waikoloa and Ulaino roads remained closed by flooding Wednesday afternoon.

Carroll, who lives a mile and a half from where the highway was closed, said people appeared to have heeded warnings to stay away from Hana.

Few or no rental cars were reported to be traveling along the highway Wednesday, thanks to an increase in public awareness outreach efforts by the state and Department of Transportation road closure signs along the highway, said Napua Hueu, Hana Highway Regulation Committee chairwoman.

“The Hana Highway Regulation Committee extends its appreciation to state officials and the Department of Transportation for their prompt public awareness efforts in relaying the dangerous conditions and various closures of the Hana Highway to the general public as preparations for Tropical Storm Olivia,” she said.

She said some visitors don’t know that the road to Hana is prone to landslides.

“We encourage the hospitality industry and commercial operators to use utmost discretion in these times of challenging weather,” she said. “Discouraging visitors from attempting the Hana Highway amidst rain or high winds is among the first recommendations listed in the ‘Road to Hana Code of Conduct,’ which is published on our website at HanaHighwayRegulation.com.”

During Hurricane Lane last month, visitors were reported along Hana Highway on every day of the storm period, Hueu said. Despite Lane’s southern path, the Hana region experienced heavy rains leading to dangerous road conditions with multiple landslides and downed power lines reported, Hueu said.

“With Tropical Storm Olivia, we have noticed a decrease in visitors,” she said.

Carroll worried about how tourism would be affected if the decline in visitors continues. After Hurricane Lane, “some of my staff members did not work for six days,” Carroll said.

“You can imagine we’re going to be heavily impacted,” she said. “When it comes to tourism, I know from the front lines it’s a big impact on our economy here in Hana.”

Mayor Alan Arakawa said Wednesday that the county “had major flooding in quite a few areas.” On Molokai, there were numerous places “that are literally flooded with water running in the roadway or on school grounds,” he said.

“We don’t have the overall reports back yet, except we know there’s a lot of flooding,” Arakawa continued.

The mayor said he was told that it rained from 3 to 8 inches on Molokai, maybe up to 15 inches in localized spots.

In Kaunakakai, rain and wind began picking up at about 11 a.m. Wednesday, said Lori-Lei Rawlins Crivello, manager of Rawlins Service. A transformer near the service station blew in heavy winds, causing other businesses — but not the service station — to lose power, she said.

She heard that Molokai’s East End was affected most by flooding and power outages.

“We finally made a decision to close at 1:30 so our employees could go,” she said. “With all the banks closed, the markets closed, the county and state closed, it was pretty quiet in town.”

She said a river to the west of town had been rising with the rain, threatening to overflow onto Maunaloa Highway.

“It got pretty high,” she said. “We didn’t want to wait till it did go over.”

After 5 p.m. Wednesday, the state Department of Transportation reported Kamehameha V Highway was “passable, but water is still flowing through the fords.”

Before the service station closed, there had been a steady flow of customers, Rawlins Crivello said. People began buying propane to use for cooking at the start of the week to prepare for the storm, but there wasn’t a buying frenzy, she said. Some residents still had supplies left over from when they stocked up for Hurricane Lane.

Lanai resident Alberta de Jetley said the island appeared to have been sheltered from the storm.

“We haven’t been hit hard at all,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “We had winds, but it wasn’t damaging winds.”

Except for Blue Ginger Cafe and Mike Carroll Gallery, businesses in Lanai City were closed Wednesday, she said. There was no traffic in town.

The ocean at Hulopoe Beach was flat, she said.

“This is the second time,” she said. “We thought we were going to get slammed with the other storm. Because we’re in the lee of Molokai and Maui, we’re more sheltered.”

Olivia brought erratic weather patterns, raining heavily at times with clear blue skies at other times, Arakawa said.

“Almost like a cyclone effect, rainfall has been really chaotic and sporadic,” he said. “It’s hard to identify this one area that is getting pounded by rain because it is not continuous.”

The weather service reported Wednesday as much as 9 inches of rain fell in parts of Maui due to Olivia. That was at West Wailuaiki in East Maui, 9.02 inches in the 24-hour period ending at 5 p.m. Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains, near where Olivia passed over Maui, logged 8.26 inches. Kahakuloa reported 3.06 inches and Mahinahina in West Maui, 3.53 inches.

Nearly 3 inches fell in Hana and about 2.5 inches in Pukalani and Waikapu.

Gov. David Ige’s request for a presidential disaster declaration for Olivia was granted one day after submittal, the Governor’s Office said Wednesday. The declaration authorized the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency assistance to protect property and health or to avert the threat of a catastrophe.

Ige sought Department of Defense assistance for airlifting between islands, temporary power generation at evacuation centers and debris management planning and access to federal resources for search and rescue, medical evacuations, mass care and sheltering.

Other Olivia related issues:

• The Department of Water Supply advised people to conserve water so crews can get everything cleaned up, Arakawa said Wednesday. There is enough water for all areas, he added.

• All Kamehameha Schools campuses, preschools, community program sites and offices reopen today.

• Bank of Hawaii, Central Pacific Bank and American Savings reopen today.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com. Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com. Chris Sugidono can be reached at csugidono@ mauinews.com.