Tropical Storm Olivia blew through the Hawaiian Islands Wednesday but not before leaving a soggy trail of fallen trees, swollen streams, landslides and power outages.
Weather officials warned, however, to expect more lingering rain and possible thunderstorms from Olivia today even though the fading storm was expected to be downgraded to a tropical depression. A flash flood watch was in effect for all islands until 6 a.m. Friday.
Otherwise, it appears that the vast majority of Hawaii is returning to business as usual today, with the state’s commercial ports and other private and public operations that were shut down for the storm reopening.
The first tropical cyclone in modern history to make landfall on Maui, Olivia came onshore just north of rural Kahakuloa on Maui’s windward coast about 9:10 a.m. Wednesday.
By that time, however, the once- powerful hurricane had weakened to about 45 mph, and forecasters described it as being disorganized, with its lower-level circulation separated from its upper-level convection.
Forty-four minutes later, the tropical storm made a second landfall on the northeast coast of Lanai about 6 miles north-northeast of Lanai City.
Forecasters said persistent 40 mph southwesterly wind shear and the mountainous terrain of Maui County teamed up to take the punch out of Olivia.
Nevertheless, Olivia unleashed plenty of destructive wind gusts and rain, leading to dozens of power outages across the state, uprooted trees, closed roads, mud and rockfalls and raging streams.
On Maui, localized heavy rainfall and rising waters led to evacuations of homes on both sides of the West Maui Mountains, including in Honokowai and Waihee Valley. Puu Kukui, the highest point in West Maui, received over 8 inches of rain, while Molokai was pounded with nearly as much.
At a news conference at Hawaii Emergency Management Agency headquarters at Diamond Head, Gov. David Ige said he activated about 300 members of the National Guard in support of emergency response activities on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii island.
Ige also said he spoke to Vice President Mike Pence, who told him President Donald Trump had signed his disaster declaration allowing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide more comprehensive support to the state.
Later, Pence announced the emergency declaration on Twitter, and added: “We are with you Hawaii!”
Dolph Diemont, FEMA’s local coordinating officer, told the news media that, “FEMA stands poised and ready” to respond to any disaster as a result of Olivia.
Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa said 57 people occupied county shelters by midday, and scores of power outages were affecting thousands of electric customers, including 4,500 in Makawao alone.
“It’s been an ordeal, but we’re coming through this fairly well,” Arakawa said.
Maui County schools, courts and government offices were closed in advance of the storm, but were expected to be open today.
On Oahu, peak winds of 41 mph were recorded at Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu International Airport late in the morning. Diamond Head Road near Makalei Place was closed in both directions due to a large fallen kiawe tree, and another tree closed the Pali Lookout.
At midday Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell urged residents not to let their guard down.
“Pay attention and be prepared and take action if necessary,” the mayor said.
Caldwell, who earlier signed a proclamation in support of the city’s emergency response, announced that city and county operations would return to normal today “unless something dramatic happens.”
The state Department of Education announced that all schools, offices and programs will be open today pending further announcements.
Tom Travis, head of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, urged people to negotiate roads carefully following the storm. Watch out for blocked roads, debris, power lines and other hazards, he said.
Travis said his agency would be working in the next day or two to assess damage and formulate a plan to deal with any repairs if necessary.
George Szigeti, chief executive officer of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, offered this message for visitors:
“Stay informed,” he said. “Don’t guess, don’t prejudge this Tropical Storm Olivia. If there’s one thing we can count on is that Mother Nature she’s unpredictable. So we’re asking everyone to stay vigilant.”
Elsewhere, operations are expected to resume at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center at 9 a.m. today., and all state Division of Forestry and Wildlife lands on Oahu will open at sunrise today.
The division urged trail and forest users to remain vigilant in looking out for hazards associated with wind and heavy rainfall. Report fallen trees, trail washouts and other hazards at the Na Ala Hele website: hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov.