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Thursday, December 18, 2014         

AFTERMATH: JAPAN 8.9 EARTHQUAKE


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Maui sees boat damage and flooding but little else

By Christie Wilson

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Kahului Harbor was expected to bear the brunt of yesterday's tsunami on Maui, but two beachfront hotels, a pair of canoe hale and other properties in the danger zone were spared as the ocean pushed inland about a quarter-mile up Puunene Avenue.

Mayor Alan Arakawa said there were no injuries from the tsunami, which included surges of 6 to 9 feet, although two or three houses in Paukukalo near the harbor and in Spreckelsville by Kahului Airport reportedly sustained minor damage. Arakawa also said there were a few waste-water spills, as pump stations had been closed as a precaution in advance of the waves.

Sections of Puunene and Kaahumanu avenues by the harbor were closed for most of the morning as road crews removed sand, plant material and other debris. Water on the roads reportedly was 6 to 8 inches deep at one point.

On Amala Street east of the harbor, a 40- to 50-pound sea turtle was discovered washed ashore near Kanaha Beach Park. Maui firefighters attempted to return it to the ocean.

Honoapiilani Highway between Maalaea and Lahaina also was closed, as was a flooded portion of South Kihei Road. County spokesman Rod Antone said the island's 14 evacuation centers were filled, with as many as 500 people in some facilities.

The highest dollar losses were likely at Maalaea Harbor, where at least two boats sank and several others were damaged along with some of the piers.

Jamie Dancil, who owns Jamie's Boat Repair, said he spent the night at the harbor, watching the brown, soupy waters repeatedly ebb and rise. He said the vessels that were left tied at piers instead of taken out to safer seas hit bottom when the ocean dropped.

"I've been here for 27 years, and we've had surges before, but not like this," he said.

Commercial fisherman Ricardo Alvarez, 62, said fellow boaters were not able to reach him about the approaching tsunami because of AT&T's wireless service outage. By the time he got down to Maalaea at about 5 a.m. yesterday, his 31-foot Surat sport-fishing boat had lost its transom when a surge lifted the vessel 10 feet above normal sea levels. He estimated the damage at $10,000.

Back at Kahului Harbor, boulder barriers, naupaka hedges and a slight elevation change helped protect the 147-room Maui Beach and 195-room Maui Seaside hotels.

Maui Seaside guests Leonard Pleva and Elijah Mikowski of Michigan said they were in Lahaina when the Civil Defense siren sounded Thursday night. The pair was unaware of the magnitude-8.9 earthquake off Japan, and at first thought the siren was a signal that the town was shutting down for the night. When informed of the tsunami threat, they headed back to their Kahului hotel and were told to seek shelter at War Memorial Gym.

Pleva, 55, said they decided to head to higher ground in Wailuku and slept in their rental car until about 6 a.m.

"We're used to blizzards, but I've never seen anything like a tsunami," said Mikowski, 30. "I was kind of panic-stricken."

Pleva was more nonchalant about the potential disaster. "I just thought that if I was going to die, this would be a nice place to do it. It's paradise," he said.

On Kauai, county officials received reports of 6- to 8-foot waves running up as much as 80 feet inland at Hanalei, while Port Allen reported waves coming in two feet above the pier. There were no reports of injuries or significant damage, and Kauai was the first county to issue an all-clear, at 7:30 a.m.






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