UPDATE 10 p.m.: Evacuees advised not to return until safe
Maui County warned that residents evacuating their homes due to flooding in the Haiku area should not return until it is safe.
Residents have been stranded after heavy rains and flash flooding crested the Kaupakalua Reservoir and Dam and Haiku, sending fast-flowing floodwaters across roads and heavily damaging or destroying half a dozen homes, the county said.
Authorities have told everyone in the vicinity of Kaupakalua Dam and makai of Kaupakalua Road to leave the area immediately, as well as people near heavily flowing streams.
“This is a real flooding situation we have not seen in a long time, in fact some of the residents have told me that this is the worst they’ve seen in over 25 years,” Mayor Michael Victorino said Monday afternoon before heading out to the scene.
The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Haiku and Pauwela areas shortly before 3 p.m. due to the “imminent failure” of the Kaupakalua Dam. The weather service said that life-threatening flooding and significant property damage was expected in areas downstream from the dam, including Hana Highway between Haiku and Pauwela.
Officials had earlier thought that floodwaters breached the dam but said late Monday night that there were no signs of structural damage upon closer inspection.
Evacuation shelters have been opened at the Paia Community Center and Hana High School. The Eddie Tam Memorial Center in Makawao is on standby to open if the Paia Community Center reaches capacity, the county said. The Haiku Community Center is under construction and not available for emergencies.
Maui Beach Hotel also is offering evacuees a special rate of $139 per night, the county said.
Hawaii is under a flash flood watch as deep moisture is expected to linger over the state through at least Tuesday, with the potential for persistent heavy rains and more flash flooding.
Flooding led to closures of Makawao Avenue at the Piiholo Road intersection and close to the Kokomo Road intersection. Also closed were Baldwin, Brewer, Kee and Peahi roads, Makani Road at Old Haleakala Highway and Kaupakalua Road just past West Kuiaha Road and between Lepo and Pakanu streets. Hana Highway was also shut down from Peahi Road to Keanae. All had reopened by Monday evening, though Kaupakalua Road remained closed as of 7 p.m., and other nearby roads could shut down as needed, the county said.
County parks on Maui remain closed and will be assessed for reopening Tuesday.
Haiku Elementary School will be in full distance learning mode Tuesday because of the flooding and heavy rain. The school expected to resume blended learning Wednesday.
Victorino asked residents and visitors to exercise caution and avoid floodwaters.
“If you see high water, turn around and go back,” he said. “Do not try to cross it at this time.”
The weather service warned that people should stay away from streams, rivers, drainage ditches and culverts, even if they are currently dry. They should also avoid crossing fast-flowing or rising water by vehicle or on foot.