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Maui socked by lightning and flooding

The island suffered the worst damage from the storm, which created a scare for several families and cut off power

By Christie Wilson

LAST UPDATED: 1:46 a.m. HST, Jul 31, 2013

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

KAHULUI » A day after Tropical Depression Flossie did its most damage on Maui before fizzling, at least two families were happy to have survived lightning strikes that left a hole in one home and knocked a man to his knees at another.

Uilani Endo can still smell the odor of charred wood and blown electrical outlets a day after her family's Kahu­lui home was hit by lightning as Flossie raged across Central Maui early Monday night.

Endo had gone to look out a window in a second-floor bedroom of the Kipapa Place home after several bright flashes indicated the thunderstorm was approaching. She said it wasn't raining, but when she saw the lightning, she told her daughter Kanoe, 21, to come out of the bathroom.

Moments after her daughter left the bathroom, as Endo was glancing at the bathroom mirror, "the whole room turned white," she said.

"It was like a big boom, like a big blowout. All the pictures on my windowsill fell off, and the whole house shook. I was in shock. I screamed and grabbed my daughter and said, ‘Let's get the hell out of here.'"

It wasn't until Endo went outside to put her dogs into a shelter that she saw pieces of asphalt shingles and wood littering the backyard.

"That's when I realized I had a hole in my house," she said.

Flossie dropped most of its rain over Maui, where lightning storms knocked out power to thousands. About 900 customers in Hana were without power overnight, when the storm damaged power lines.

The lightning storm appeared to be heading to Oahu at about 8:30 p.m. Monday, but radar showed it died out before reaching shore.

However, before the storm left Maui, lightning tore through the back eave of Endo's roof at about 6 p.m.

On Tuesday an upstairs window displayed a large black burn mark where lightning had entered the bathroom. The strike nearly blew the window out of its frame, and sent large chunks of drywall into the bathtub.

Endo said it also short-circuited electrical sockets throughout the house, damaging three televisions and a computer.

Neighbors told her they saw two lightning strikes, and another said the bolt appeared to ricochet off a satellite TV dish next door.

Between calls to electricians Tuesday afternoon, Endo said she isn't sure what exactly happened, but is thankful her family is safe.

In Haiku a 47-year-old Maui man was recovering at home after suffering an indirect lightning strike via his home's plumbing.

Mark Minobe, a heavy-equipment operator for Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., was rinsing a bowl in the kitchen sink at his West Kui­­aha Road home a little after 6 p.m. Monday when his hands were shocked by blue currents shooting out from the faucet, according to his wife, Joslyn. He fell to his knees, then walked to the other room to tell his wife what had happened and fell to his knees again, she said.

Joslyn Minobe said that "at exactly the same time" her husband was getting shocked at the sink, there was "an extremely loud boom."

She checked her husband's pulse and found it was rapid, and then called 911 for an ambulance. Minobe was checked out at Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wai­luku and released. He did not suffer any burns on his hands and seems to be no worse for the experience, except for the embarrassment from all the media attention, Joslyn Minobe said.

"He just wants to crawl under the carpet," she said.

She still isn't certain what happened, noting the power went out at their home at about 5:30 p.m. and that the kitchen window curtains were closed.

"I don't know if he was shocked by lightning. All I can tell you is that we did not have any power at the time, and he was inside the house in the kitchen and had just turned the faucet on," she said.

The National Weather Service website notes that lightning can enter a structure through wires or pipes that extend outside the building. Once inside, the lightning can travel through electrical, phone, plumbing and radio and television reception systems.

The agency advises staying off corded phones and avoiding electrical equipment, cords and plumbing. The safety tips include not taking a shower or washing your hands or dishes during lightning storms.

Heavy rain that accompanied the lightning on Maui triggered flooding that closed Kalepa Bridge at mile marker 38.5 on Hana Highway.

Flossie approached the islands as a strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph over the weekend, but quickly broke apart Monday as wind shear and dry air zapped the system of its power as it approached the Big Island and Maui.

Forecasters had feared up to 15 inches of rain in isolated windward areas, but Flossie, which brought rain of 3 to 4 inches an hour, moved quickly over the islands and didn't stay long over any one place.

The Kaupo Gap in East Maui got the most rain in the state with 5.3 inches falling in the 24-hour period ending at 2 a.m. Puu Kukui in the West Maui Mountains got 4.3 inches, and Ulu­pala­kua recorded 3.6 inches.

Maui County officials were deploying water tanks to service homes in the Haiku area Tuesday, as residents in some parts of the Valley Isle continued to feel the impact of the storm.

Water service was disrupted to areas along and off Kokomo, Kau­paka­lua, Kauhi­koa, Awa­lau and Lili­koi roads.

Power outages during the storm halted pumping to wells serving the Haiku area, resulting in empty water tanks in Kokomo and Kau­paka­lua, the county said.

In East Maui, Kalepa Bridge between Hana Town and Kipa­hulu is expected to be impassable due to flooding for at least a couple of days, county spokes­man Rod Antone said.

Antone said public works crews expect road closures and delays along Pii­lani Highway in the Kaupo area throughout today.

Roads in the Maui Meadows neighborhood in Kihei were dry Tuesday but still showed the stain of red mud that washed down the southern slope of Hale­akala.

Alfred and Enedina Hidalgo of Fresno, Calif., who were renting an Akala Drive home with friends, watched anxiously as runoff came flowing over a culvert and across the street into their yard.

"All of a sudden it got louder and louder, and I jumped up and went to look out the kitchen window," said Ene­dina Hidalgo, 63. "All the water was gushing through the yard. It was really scary."

Water began seeping in through the front door, and the occupants tried packing the bottom of the door with towels and other materials. A 2-square-foot area inside the door got soaked, but that was the extent of the damage, according to Alfred Hidalgo, 61.

A Maui Fire Department crew from Wai­lea arrived just before 7 p.m. to find a 3-foot-deep stream of water flowing across the road and into the property where the Hidal­gos were staying, according to county officials. Alfred Hidalgo, who left Maui on Tuesday after a weeklong stay, said firefighters dug a trench to divert the water from around the house and back into the streambed. The strategy worked, and it was all over in 20 to 30 minutes, he said.

County officials said the culvert had become blocked by green waste, allowing the stream to overflow. A county backhoe was brought in to clear the material.


Star-Advertiser staff writer Gary Kubota contributed to this report.


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Text of National Weather Service's Tropical Storm Watch advisory

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