KIHEI, Maui >> As the first strong gusts from Hurricane Lane began buffeting South Maui Wednesday afternoon, newlyweds Ben and Cat Tiemeyer packed up their beach chairs at Kamaole Beach Park I to return to the cottage they had rented for their weeklong honeymoon.
“We thought we’d come out one last time before the hurricane,” said Cat Tiemeyer, 19, of San Antonio.
The county park was closed Wednesday, and the Tiemeyers were among fewer than a dozen people on the popular beach.
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Heavier winds and tropical storm weather were expected to ramp up today on Maui, with hurricane conditions in some areas tonight and into Friday, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. The island’s south- and west-facing shores could see dangerous storm surges and erosion, and people are being advised to avoid shoreline areas.
The Texas couple are scheduled to fly out from Kahului Airport tonight but tried to change their American Airlines reservations to leave a day early in case flights are canceled. The Tiemeyers are worried about getting back home in time to start the new semester at Texas A&M University, where they are students, on Monday.
Ben Tiemeyer, 22, said they called the airline and were told all the earlier flights were booked.
“We wanted to play it safe in case the hurricane comes close,” he said. “This one sounds like it’s a big one and we’d rather not mess around with it.”
He said they plan to head for the airport early today to get some distance from Maui’s south shore, where the storm is expected to have its biggest impact. They may stop by the American Red Cross evacuation shelter at Maui High School in Kahului to await their departure, weather permitting.
Sitting at a picnic table on the park lawn, Delia Walker and Stanley Marinia were rinsing off after a swim. They arrived on Maui Tuesday and are keeping their plans to fly to Honolulu on Saturday.
“It was great,” said Walker, 61, of Augusta, Ga. “It was a little choppy but nothing really bad. The wind has really picked up and the tide is getting high so we decided it was time to leave.”
The well-traveled couple said they have been in hurricane weather before during their frequent trips to the Caribbean. They appeared unconcerned about the approaching storm.
“I have been in so many hurricanes in my life. I survived all those and I’ll survive this one too,” Walker said.
“It will be something to tell my grandkids about.”
Other visitors to Maui were more anxious to leave the island ahead of Hurricane Lane. There were long lines at Kahului Airport at midday as travelers checked in for their mainland flights and others tried to change their reservations to fly out early.
Brian and Norma Russell of Monrovia, Calif., were unusual in that they were trying to stay a couple days longer. The couple own a unit at Island Surf on South Kihei Road, just across from the beach, and were supposed to return home Wednesday.
“We want to ride it out to make sure our home is OK,” said Norma Russell, 69.
Harvey Faurholt of Kennewick, Wash., had little choice but to see through the next few days on Maui.
He arrived Wednesday as part of a group of 15 family members converging on the Valley Isle for a variety of celebrations, including Faurholt’s 75th birthday and 50th wedding anniversary with wife, Vicki.
He first learned Hurricane Lane posed a serious threat to Hawaii about three days ago and his immediate reaction was to cancel the trip. But since they had already paid for their flights and hotel rooms in Wailea, and some family members had already arrived on Maui from Sydney, Australia, and other far-off locations, “what are you going to do? It’s not something you can just stop.”
“We’ll just see what happens. It could be fun,” said Faurholt, while waiting to pick up a rental car. “I’ve never been in a hurricane before.”