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State, Maui County declare emergencies in wake of storm

School resumes today but many Maui residents still without power

A fallen tree entangles power lines along Kekaulike Avenue in Kula on Monday. The road was closed between Mile Marker 8 and Alae Road, with a single lane reopening for local traffic Monday evening. Both Gov. David Ige and Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino declared a state of emergency. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION photo

A state of emergency was declared Monday in the state and Maui County after high winds and heavy rains pummeled the islands beginning Sunday, flooding roads, downing trees and knocking out power to thousands of residents and businesses Upcountry and in South and West Maui.

As of late Monday afternoon, Hawaiian Electric crews were working to restore electric service to about 5,600 customers Upcountry and in pockets of Kuau, Haiku and Lahaina affected by the Kona storm system.

With crews making progress in repairing damaged transmission lines, the utility estimated service would be restored by Monday evening for a majority of the affected Upcountry customers.

Residents in the Upper Piiholo and Olinda area were asked to prepare for an extended overnight outage.

“Downed power lines serving this area are in a remote gulch and with ongoing inclement weather conditions, crews cannot safely access parts of the line to make repairs at this time,” according to a Hawaiian Electric news release.

The gate is locked Monday at Baldwin Beach Park, which was closed Sunday due to flooding from a Kona storm that brought excessive rain, high surf and high winds throughout Maui County. The Maui News / LILA FUJIMOTO photo

For customers without power by 9 p.m. Monday, the outages were expected to be extended until today, the utility said. The Haleakala Crater summit area, which was closed Sunday afternoon and canceled sunrise reservations for today, remained without power, according to Hawaiian Electric.

Since Sunday, an estimated 22,000 Maui customers experienced brief to extended power outages caused by gusty winds and fallen trees on the island’s transmission and distribution system, Hawaiian Electric reported.

On Monday, Mayor Michael Victorino signed a proclamation declaring a state of emergency for the county after surveying the Kona storm’s impacts in person and by reviewing drone footage to “verify the damage is substantial,” he said in a news release.

“South Maui was especially hit hard by significant flooding while other areas are coping with fallen trees, storm debris, downed power lines and other hazards,” Victorino said. “The weather system is not over yet, so I ask the people of Maui County to continue to be prepared, remain vigilant and to stay safe.”

He said the declaration is the first step to obtain Federal Emergency Management Agency funding and assistance.

Gov. David Ige signed a statewide emergency declaration, giving him authority to spend state funds to provide relief for damages and losses caused by flooding and other effects of heavy rains through the disaster emergency relief period ending Friday.

State Department of Transportation crews cleared downed trees and landslides in areas including Honoapiilani Highway, North Kihei Road and Kula Highway. Fallen trees and a landslide Monday morning closed Kekaulike Avenue in Kula between Mile Marker 8 and Alae Road, with a single lane reopening for local traffic Monday evening.

Some Upcountry businesses were closed Monday after losing electricity.

“No power! We can’t bake … “ read a sign on the door of Komoda Store and Bakery in Makawao.

Bank of Hawaii’s Pukalani Branch was temporarily closed because of the outage, and Foodland in Pukalani also closed Sunday evening due to the power outage, reopening Monday afternoon.

After closing early Sunday and remaining closed Monday, Pukalani Superette was set to reopen at 11 a.m. today, according to its Instagram page.

In South Maui, American Red Cross volunteers opened a shelter Sunday night at the Kihei Community Center for those affected by the storm. Eleven people came to the shelter, which eventually closed at 6 p.m. Monday, said Red Cross Maui County Disaster Program Manager Jenny Worth.

“Most of the residents at the shelter were from the homeless population,” Worth said, adding that Department of Health and Human Services officials sent representatives to help the homeless residents when the shelter closed.

Public libraries in Hana, Makawao and Wailuku and on Lanai and Molokai were closed Monday, with fines waived for books and materials due during the closure. The State Public Library System later announced that all public libraries and support offices would be closed at 4 p.m. Monday due to the severe weather.

Second Circuit Courts were set to reopen today after being closed Monday.

All Maui County public schools were set to reopen today after being closed Monday, state Department of Education spokesperson Nanea Kalani confirmed.

Maui Economic Opportunity’s Head Start Centers on Maui and Molokai and the Kahi Kamali’i Infant/Toddler Center at the J. Walter Cameron Center also planned to reopen today after shutting down Monday due to the weather. MEO’s Human Services buses also planned to resume their full schedule today after reducing to health-related and dialysis appointments only. The Maui Bus paratransit services, operated by MEO, ran without disruption, the nonprofit said.

Hawaiian Electric said its crews worked through Sunday night in areas that were safe to access and continued with restoration efforts Monday to bring customers back online in parts of Haiku to Nahiku, Pukalani, Kihei, Paia and Lahaina.

“It will take time to complete all restoration efforts as crews are addressing accessibility in certain areas where there may be downed trees and debris removal ahead of restoration,” a news release from the utility said. “The transmission lines must be restored first, followed by any damaged poles, downed distribution and service wires, and other electrical equipment in affected neighborhoods.”

The company reminded residents to stay at least 30 feet away from downed power lines, which are energized and dangerous.

Outage updates are posted on the company’s Twitter account @MauiElectric. People can report an outage or downed power line at (808) 871-7777.

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

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