WAILUKU >> A forecast path taking Tropical Storm Olivia over Maui looked foreboding Tuesday, but life on the Valley Isle less than a day before the storm’s projected arrival was pretty calm.
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said the county had prepared better than ever before with state and federal assistance, and many residents said they were already well stocked with emergency supplies from the threat of Hurricane Lane last month.
“A lot of the prep was done three weeks ago,” said Paul Remington, a schoolteacher from Kihei who bought a case of bottled water at the local Ace Hardware store Tuesday afternoon and planned to go home and fill some buckets with water to flush toilets if a prolonged power outage disables the county water system.
Piiholo resident Joyce Kim said her family bought extra food, batteries and water last month and still has those supplies along with a generator.
“We’re already prepared from Lane,” she said.
Some businesses opted to close a bit early on Tuesday, including high-end restaurant Mama’s Fish House in Paia, which planned to seat its last guests at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. Also in Paia, art gallery and boutique Puka Puka planned to close two hours early at 4 p.m.
Gallery director Nathan Howe spent about five hours preparing about 50 sandbags and creating a barrier in front of the store. “We’re the lowest point in town,” he said.
Howe said he boarded up the gallery windows for Lane, but at about 3 p.m. he wasn’t sure whether he was going to do the same for Olivia. He said he planned to wait for later forecast updates to decide.
Chris Hook of Wailuku spent Tuesday morning fishing on a beach in Waiehu. “It’s a nice, relaxing day to me,” he said. “The calm before the storm.”
Hook said his biggest fear is that the power will go off for a prolonged period, disabling county water service. So he planned to fill some trash cans with water for nonpotable uses.
Nicholas Ortiz of Happy Valley had more to fear because he lives in a cottage on stilts next to a river that could threaten the house if floodwaters rise too high.
As was the case for Lane, he sought shelter inside the Maui High School gym with his girlfriend, Ashley Braceros, and two children.
“I ain’t taking no chances,” he said.
Ortiz said the shelter filled up with roughly 100 people for Lane, but only a few checked in Tuesday when the shelter opened.
County officials decided to open seven evacuation shelters at 6 p.m. Tuesday on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. The county also granted leave for nonessential county workers and stationed emergency relief personnel in areas expected to receive the worst from Olivia.
All state public schools and the three charter schools — Kihei, Kualapuu and HTA charter schools — in Maui County will be closed today, the state Department of Education announced.
County bus service will not run today, and all county parks will be closed. There also will be no trash service or county landfill operations today, and all state offices will be closed in Maui County with workers given administrative leave.
“We apologize in advance for any inconvenience that the closure of nonessential offices may cause the public,” Arakawa said at a Tuesday morning news conference. “As with any type of emergency situation, we are striving to balance the need of safety with our overall commitment to provide important county services to our community.”
The mayor said emergency response officials expect 12 hours or so of severe rain, wind and ocean surges that could produce damaging flooding starting around midnight Tuesday or early today from the storm. As of 5 p.m. Tuesday the storm had maximum sustained winds near 50 mph with stronger gusts.
Arakawa said preparations for Olivia are probably the best Maui has ever made for a severe storm, given the amount of resources being provided by the state and federal government.
“This is a team effort,” he said.
As part of the storm preparations, a 35-member swift water response team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been positioned in Hana, according to Herman Andaya, administrator for the Maui Emergency Management Agency.
FEMA also has commodities stationed on Maui along with medical teams and urban search and rescue personnel.
“We’re here in support of the county and the state,” said Scott Zaffram, a senior FEMA response official in Wailuku.
The National Guard also has a 12-person team stationed in East Maui, Andaya said.
The American Red Cross was helping open the shelters at Lahaina Civic Center, Maui High School, Kihei Elementary School, Kalama Intermediate School, Hana Elementary and High School, Molokai High School and Lanai Elementary and High School. The Maui High, Kihei Elementary and Kalama Intermediate locations are pet-friendly.
“The county’s absolute, No. 1 priority is to ensure the safety of our residents and visitors,” he said.