• Thursday, September 20, 2018
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Hawaii News

Olivia causes flooding and landslides but no injuries on Maui

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    An SUV was caught by a stand of banana plants Wednesday after a flash flood generated by Tropical Storm Olivia struck in Honokohau.

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Above, Honokohau resident Mike Geresy sat among debris Thursday. Honokohau was inundated by a flash flood brought on by Olivia on Wednesday. “It’s the most rain I have ever seen here ever,” Geresy said.

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HONOKOHAU, Maui >> State and county officials Thursday got a bird’s-eye view of the parts of Maui County hardest-hit by Tropical Storm Olivia.

What they saw were largely the aftereffects of stream flooding along with landslides that in some instances covered roads.

Though the storm made landfall at Kahakuloa near the northernmost point of Maui, it produced localized damage in spots from the east to the northwest, including parts of the island’s windward coast.

Maui County officials are in the early process of gathering preliminary damage assessments, so it’s too soon to estimate any loss and repair cost values. There were no reports of injuries.

Olivia spared two areas that Mayor Alan Arakawa had been particularly concerned about: Iao Valley in the West Maui Mountains, where floodwaters two years ago created immense damage at Iao Valley State Monument, and 2,000 acres in Lahaina that got turned into bare dirt by a fire last month.

“It was definitely an eye-opening experience to see from the air, and to see how localized the impacts were,” said Keith Regan, Maui County managing director.

Also aboard the Hawaii National Guard Black Hawk helicopter surveying damage were Mike McCartney, Gov. David Ige’s chief of staff; Maui Emergency Management Agency administrator Herman Andaya; Maui County Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu; and Hawaii Department of Defense Brig. Gen. Kenneth Hara.

Arakawa made a separate flight earlier in the day.

The observers covered Maui and flew over Lanai to see Olivia’s impact on that island, where the storm also made landfall in the northeast about 6 miles from Lanai City, the island’s population center. The team was not able to fly over Molokai, which also received some of the brunt from Olivia.

Regan said he saw a lot of runoff on Lanai but not much flooding.

He said it appeared the worst-hit part of Maui was a valley on the northwest side where around 30 families live along a stream that leads to Honokohau Bay.

No warning

Pomai Wilson, a lifelong resident of the area, was in a streamside cottage at the bottom of the valley with his girlfriend, Crystal Blunke, when Honokohau Stream began overflowing its banks. Floodwater also came rushing downhill on the side of his cottage not facing the stream.

“When it came through, it came through with no warning,” he said.

Blunke said the couple scrambled through the water to high ground and safety. “We barely crawled out,” she said. “It was seconds.”

The floodwater in the stream rose roughly 15 feet to the top of Honokohau Bridge.

Mike Geresy, another valley resident, said he saw neighbors’ cars flow by along with lumber, chicken coops, a hot dog kiosk on a trailer, 55-gallon drums, surfboards and a pig.

“Everything was coming down,” he said. “It was unbelievable.”

Wilson said one car was carried under a bridge on coastal Honoapiilani Highway and is somewhere in the ocean. He said he could feel the bridge and road shaking as tree logs and other heavy debris slammed into the bridge’s foundation, which was built in 1968.

“It was a sketchy experience,” Wilson said Thursday. “It was scary. I can’t believe what I seen yesterday.”

Geresy said the flood started in the early afternoon and lasted about an hour or two.

The flood was driven by heavy rain that fell in one area of the West Maui Mountains above the valley.

The National Weather Service reported that during 24 hours through 8 a.m. Thursday, 12.5 inches of rain fell in the mountainous area at a station called Mahinahina — the most rain for Maui or any other part of the state during that period.

Much of that rain got channeled to Honokohau. It also caused a stream in a neighboring valley that leads to Honolua Bay to overrun its banks and force the highway to be closed until waters receded and debris of mud and rocks could be cleared.

The county urges anyone who suffered damage to contact Maui Emergency Management at 270-7285.

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