‘We’ll recover’: Maui residents hold on to hope in light of damage

'We'll recover': Maui residents hold on to hope in light of damage
Tropical Storm Olivia triggered widespread flooding on Maui. (Image: Damian Antioco)
Tropical Storm Olivia triggered widespread flooding on Maui. (Image: Damian Antioco)
Maui is seeing heavy rains as Olivia moves closer to the island. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Maui is seeing heavy rains as Olivia moves closer to the island. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

KAHULUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Heavy rains and strong winds from Tropical Storm Olivia pummeled Maui County on Wednesday, washing away homes, bringing down trees and utility poles, and triggering widespread power outages.

Residents told Hawaii News Now that floodwaters from a swollen Honokohau Stream swept away several homes and cars, though the scope of the destruction wasn't immediately clear.

"We saw probably Bob's house coming down the river and smashing up under the bridge," said Honokohau Valley resident Debbie Sheetz. "It came down and got stuck under the bridge and caused more flooding."

She added her own truck was washed away in floodwaters, along with other vehicles.

"It's really heart wrenching especially because Hurricane Lane came and took families' houses in Lahaina with fire and it's kind of like ironic that this one came and took us with water, but we'll recover. Nobody was taken. Lives are more important than anything," resident Malia Wong said.

Rising waters also triggered evacuations in Kahana on Wednesday afternoon, while Maui County officials said they rescued four people from rising waters in Waihee Valley.

"We finally made contact with the people we were looking for and we ended up accounting for them and our resources are now just checking on the general well-being of the people in the valley," MFD Battalion Chief Amos Lonokailua-Hewett said.

Meanwhile, crews were responding to a number of power outages across Maui and Molokai.

At one point, about 6,800 customers were without power in Upcountry Maui, though power had been restored to more than half by 3 p.m. On Molokai, outages affected more than 1,100 people, with more than 700 restored by early afternoon.

Some 800 residents on Maui and Molokai however will have to ride out the night in the dark, MECO officials said.

Throughout the day, there were also a number of reports of downed trees, landslides and debris on the road.

On Maui, Hana Highway remained a trouble spot, with trees falling onto the thoroughfare in several spots. There were also road closures in Iao Valley and Lahaina.

And on Molokai, there were reports of significant flooding on Kamehameha V Highway along with debris on the road near Manila Camp River.

Wallumore Place spent more than an hour in his car waiting for floodwaters to subside.

"The water was just gushing over the road and there's no way you can get through there," he said. "There was boulders, everything, underneath the water."

Olivia made history at 9:10 a.m. Wednesday as the first tropical cyclone to make landfall on Maui since the 1950s, when the National Weather Service started collecting satellite records.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center said the storm came ashore near Kahakuloa, about 10 miles northwest of Kahului.

The storm then made a second landfall near Lanai City.

By mid-afternoon, Olivia barely remained a tropical storm, but officials warned the cyclone's moisture could stick around for days.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa urged residents to hunker down until the threat of heavy rains and blustery winds passed.

"We were expecting Olivia to come in with really heavy rains, heavy winds, but it seems like it's almost stalled here — hours after we were supposed to be clear," Arakawa said on Wednesday morning. "We won't be out of the woods for a couple of days."

He added, "Just be cautious and enjoy the day indoors."

All public schools in Maui County are closed Wednesday, and officials urged non-essential government workers to stay home.

Overnight, more than 60 people went to emergency shelters across the county, with the highest count — 30 — at Maui High.

Before the storm's arrival, the biggest concerns were for the isolated community of Hana, which could be cut off if there's significant damage to Hana Highway. A 12-member National Guard Search and Rescue Team was stationed in Hana in preparation of the most severe impacts from the storm.

"I think everyone is pretty anxious. Nobody wants the storm to hit, but I think the team is prepared," team leader Ryan Ahpuck said. "We've trained for years for something like this. So the guys are all prepared. They're trained up as can be."

This story will be updated.

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