Evacuations ongoing for Haiku residents near Kaupakalua Dam as heavy rains flood homes, roads

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HAIKU, Hawaii (KHON2) — Evacuations are ongoing in Haiku for everyone in the vicinity of Kaupakalua Dam and makai of Kaupakalua Road as heavy rains flood homes and roadways.

A flash flood warning has been extended for Maui until 8:45 p.m.

“This is a real flooding situation we have not seen in a long time,” Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said in a press conference on Monday, March 8. “In fact, some of the residents have told me that this is the worst they’ve seen in over 25 years.”

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The Maui Fire Department has responded to more than a dozen calls for help from residents who have been trapped by rising waters.

Evacuation shelters were opened at the Paia Community Center, Hana High School and Eddie Tam Center for the dam and weather emergency evacuees. As of 8:45 p.m. Eddie Tam Center closed, then Hana High School closed as of around 9:15 p.m. Paia Community Center remains open.

Volunteers with the American Red Cross are working to meet the immediate needs of those impacted. Evacuees coming to the shelter are advised to bring essentials, such as medicine, important documentation and personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks and sanitizer.

Approximately 9,000 people live in Haiku, the site of evacuations. Officials are urging people to stay away from the area.

Victorino surveyed the flooding in Haiku after his press conference and reported that Kaupakalua Road was impassible in some areas. He also said approximately a half dozen homes were heavily damaged or destroyed. He urged residents to remain vigilant.

“For the safety of evacuees and emergency personnel, I urge everyone to stay away from the Haiku area,” Victorino said in a statement. “MPD and Maui Fire and Rescue personnel are assisting those needing help. Please stay home, off the road, and away from streams, rivers, culverts and drainage ditches even if they are currently dry. Visitors and residents should understand this is life-threatening flooding.”

Long time Haiku residents say they’ve never seen rain like this before

“There’s an East Maui irrigation ditch above us that usually handles the rain but it’s overflowing onto the emi roads,all the upper roads and the lower areas” Robin Vanderpool. “So we have rivers where there were no rivers before, and we’re keeping a close eye on it.”

Vanderpool lives in Ulumalu. He says he’s unable to evacuate because the roads surrounding him are flooded.

“This is the winner, in the last 12 years that I’ve lived here in this area upcountry, my gulch has been dry and now it is a river like Honopou or the others,” said Vanderpool. “It’s how nature carved these gulches in the first place but I don’t think we were prepared. My son works near here, and they have lost their barn and all the lumber for their project down in the new river.”

Watch the full news conference below:

Hana Highway reopened late Monday night after flooding closed the roadway from Peahi Road to Keanae. Motorists are asked to exercise extreme caution on the roadway and watch out for debris and possible landslides.

Kaupakalua Road and Bayfront Highway are closed. Other nearby roads may be shut down as needed.

The Department of Parks and Recreation is also closing all parks on Maui for the rest of the day. The parks will be assessed for reopening on Tuesday.

Gov. David Ige released this statement:

The state is assisting Maui County as residents and visitors downstream of the Kaupakalua Dam evacuate at this hour. The health and safety of our residents and visitors in Haiku and surrounding areas remain our top priority as heavy rain is posing a potential threat to the dam. The state and county are closely monitoring the situation. Please stay out of the area until the danger has passed and continue to monitor local media for updates.

Gov. David Ige

According to Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency, the Kaupakalua Dam was built in 1885 and is one of the oldest agricultural dams on Maui. The earthen dam is 57 feet high and can hold 68 million gallons of water.

The parcel of land where the Kaupakulua Reservoir is located is owned by East Maui Irrigation. Mahi Pono and Alexander & Baldwin each own half of East Maui Irrigation.

Mahi Pono released this statement Monday night:

Today we notified state and county officials that due to the unprecedented rainfall, the Kaupakalua Reservoir and Dam, owned by East Maui Irrigation (EMI), reached peak levels causing the over-topping of the dam. The dam did not fail. Out of concerns for the safety of the surrounding community, the highway was closed and residents were ordered to evacuate upon our recommendation. At this time, the over-topping of the dam has ceased. However, our crews are actively monitoring the situation and will continue monitoring the water levels until it returns to a safe level. Our primary concern is for the safety of the residents in the area and the emergency responders. We are committed to working with state and county emergency response officials as the situation develop.” 

Shan Tsutsui, chief operating officer, Mahi Pono

Maui state legislators issued the following statement Monday night:

We’ve been in constant communication with County and State authorities to ensure the safety of residents and visitors near Kaupakalua Dam and in other areas of East Maui. We are encouraging people to stay put and seek immediate refuge at the designated evacuation shelters if you are in in vicinity of Kaupakalua Dam and the makai areas of Kaupakalua Road. Do not return to the impacted areas until there is an “all clear” from local officials.

Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English – Senate District 7 – Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe

Representative Lynn DeCoite – House District 13 – Haʻikū, Hāna, Kaupō, Kīpahulu, Nāhiku, Pāʻia, Kahoʻolawe, Lānaʻi, Molokaʻi and Molokini

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