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Haleakala to get another dusting: More snow expected at summit

Stormy weather, high surf continues across Maui County

Haleakala’s summit still shows patches of snow as the sun sets Thursday evening. Snow of up to six inches was expected today at Haleakala, which remains under a winter storm warning through 6 p.m. The national park has been closed since Sunday due to snow, ice and debris on the roads. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Snowfall of up to six inches was expected for Haleakala National Park today, as the summit remained under a winter storm warning through 6 p.m.

The National Weather Service extended the warning Thursday and cautioned residents of strong winds, heavy snow, icy roadways and very cold conditions. Travel to the summit could be “very hazardous or impossible” and should be avoided until conditions improve.

Haleakala National Park officials had already announced that the park would be closed through today, including the sunrise viewing, due to the severe winter weather conditions.

Maui Electric Co. spokeswoman Sayble Bissen said Thursday that power had been restored to the lower section of the park, including the ranger station, maintenance facility and worker housing. Bissen said weather conditions had delayed damage assessments in the upper Haleakala area, and that MECO was working with county, state and federal agencies to restore power to the summit.

Meanwhile, at the lower elevations, downpours pelted the island and high surf continued to pound the coast as a week of stormy weather dragged on.

The Wailuku River rushes through the valley on a rain-soaked Thursday afternoon. Maui island was under a flash-flood warning through Thursday evening as downpours pelted the slopes of the West Maui Mountains and Haleakala.

Over a 24-hour period starting at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, the Puu Kukui gauge in the West Maui Mountains was inundated with 14.67 inches of rain, the most statewide during that period. The Puu Alii gauge on Molokai recorded 5.93 inches and the West Wailuaiki gauge in East Maui reached 5.89 inches — the second and third highest totals in the state.

In Makawao, a woman got stuck trying to drive through running water on Waiahiwi Road on Thursday afternoon. Emergency responders received the call at 2:53 p.m., Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro said. Engine 5 from Makawao was en route when they were told that the woman had made it out of the vehicle and onto dry ground with the help of bystanders.

Yatsushiro said the woman was fine when crews arrived at 3:08 p.m. The water level was up to about half the height of the car’s tires. The Toyota Camry was still stuck on the road when firefighters left, Yatsushiro said. Police spokesman Lt. Gregg Okamoto said the car was towed out later.

The National Weather Service issued a flash-flood warning for Maui island through 7:30 p.m. Thursday, as heavy rain continued over the West Maui Mountains and the windward slopes of Haleakala. Stream and river gauges along the windward slopes were running high, and heavy rainfall was predicted through the evening.

The county Department of Water Supply also asked West Maui customers to conserve water after sediment and debris from the heavy rains blocked ditch intakes at the Mahinahina and Lahaina water treatment facilities. The Lahaina facility was out of service Thursday, and production at the Mahinahina facility was limited. Groundwater wells were producing water at full capacity to make up for the loss in surface water.

The department asked customers to conserve water until the ditch systems can be cleared by next week “or as soon as weather conditions permit.” If a water problem occurs, customers should call the 24-hour service line at 270-7633.

On Thursday, emergency crews in West Maui also assisted a boogie boarder in Napili who was struggling to paddle back in the high surf. Yatsushiro said the call came in at about 11:15 a.m. of a man in distress about 75 yards out from the Alaeloa housing complex on Lower Honoapiilani Road. Waves were about 10 to 12 feet at the time, Yatsushiro said.

When Engine 3 from Lahaina arrived about five minutes later, they saw a surfer helping the boogie boarder back to shore. A Jet Ski unit from D.T. Fleming Beach Park arrived on scene, met up with the surfer and the boogie boarder and helped bring them to shore.

The boogie boarder was a visitor in his 30s from Argentina. He was not injured and did not need medical attention. However, he did have a preexisting shoulder injury that was making it difficult for him to paddle back to shore, Yatsushiro said.

A high-surf advisory was in effect for the north-facing shores of Molokai and Maui through 6 a.m. today. Surf of 10 to 15 feet was expected, with strong breaking waves and strong rip currents.

A high-surf warning was also in effect for the east-facing shores of Molokai and Maui through 6 a.m. today. Surf of 10 to 15 feet was expected, with ocean water occasionally sweeping across portions of beaches, very strong breaking waves and strong rip currents. Overwash onto vulnerable low-lying coasts was also possible, especially around high tide.

The surf was expected to diminish through today.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

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