Rumors swirl ahead of Hurricane Lane

Some people panicking from spread of false information

False rumors have been flying around Maui even before the arrival of Hurricane Lane.

At least as of late Thursday morning, Honoapiilani Highway had not shut down. Maui County had not shut off water service. Evacuation centers were not full. And, Maui Electric Co. has no plans for rolling blackouts.

About 40 county employees at the county’s Emergency Operations Center have been fielding phone calls and emails about those and other false rumors, said Maui County Communications Director Rod Antone.

“It hasn’t stopped,” he said. “People are panicking themselves for no good reason.”

Although social media is a prime suspect for the spread of the misinformation, its source remained unclear.

“We cannot track down where the source is coming from,” Antone said.

When county officials ask people what the source of their information is, they say they saw something posted online or “heard it from a friend of a friend.”

It’s possible there were some misunderstandings afoot.

For example, the state Department of Transportation sent out a public notice that two Kailua-bound lanes of the Pali Highway on Oahu would be closed on Wednesday.

And, somehow, people on Maui, possibly tourists who don’t know different highways on different islands, might have believed the notice was for Honoapiilani Highway.

“It seems very plausible,” Antone said. “I don’t know how it got translated<\q>.<\q>.<\q>. (But) police dispatch was inundated with that call.

“It’s just not happening,” he said. “We’re not shutting down the pali.”

In another rumor, some people were going to Maui County fire stations to get sand bags, which are not available for distribution, he said.

Antone speculated that perhaps people watch TV and see firefighters helping to place sand bags during floods, and they think fire stations have sand bags for public use.

The rumors are hampering county emergency operations because the many phone calls and emails are “wasting a lot of county time and energy.”

Antone urged people get their information from professional news-gathering organizations such as newspapers and television and radio stations.

Accurate information also is available at www.mauicounty.gov, on the county’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/countyofmaui/ and the Maui Emergency Management Agency Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MauiEMA.

Meanwhile, here are some hurricane news updates:

≤ Nonprofit agencies reported that 10 homeless families were being sheltered from the storm.

≤ Flooding in Hana shut down the Waianapanapa, Ulaino and Waikoloa roads on Wednesday morning. Other roads in the region remained open. However, people are advised not to travel to remote areas such as Hana where there’s a greater likelihood of rockslides and fallen trees.

≤ The state Department of Transportation reported that several trees went down on Hana Highway Wednesday morning, but those trees were cleared.

≤ As of Wednesday morning, there were 215 people seeking shelter in county evacuation centers. Police reported two people at Hana High and Elementary School, 24 at Lahaina Intermediate School, 33 at King Kekaulike High School in Pukalani, 13 at Molokai High School, 80 at Maui High School in Kahului, 61 at Lokelani Intermediate School in Kihei and two at Lanai High School. (Kalama Intermediate School is not a designated shelter.)


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