Maui mayor says entire county in ‘response mode,’ Lahaina could be isolated

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Editor’s Note: This interview was recorded when Olivia was a hurricane. It has since been downgraded to a tropical storm.

Mayor Alan Arakawa says all of Maui County is prepared for a direct hit from Tropical Storm Olivia.

The county’s Emergency Operations Center has been activated, and Arakawa signed an emergency declaration earlier Monday.

“It seems like we we’re going to get hit by Olivia almost head-on, so the entire county will be in a response mode,” he said. “Anything that needs to be battened down, you’ve got loose articles outside, put them under and protect them, because they will become projectiles and can fly around and do a lot of damage.”

A decision will likely be made Tuesday morning regarding closures and staffing, he noted. “It really will depend on whether Olivia strengthens, weakens, moves faster, slows down. Weather is unpredictable and what we’re doing is going with the best prognostication we can get.”

With the ground is already saturated, Arakawa says severe flooding is possible. The county is anticipating 10-15 inches of rain, with areas like Hana possibly getting 15-20 inches.

“It’s very likely that we’re going to have a lot more flooding, a lot more mudslides. The water is not going to be soaking into the ground so much as running off of the ground because of the moisture,” he said. “Areas like Hana, the streams should run heavier. We’re looking at the roads possibly being closed. In Lahaina, we had four major fires, and my understanding we possibly had a fifth, but it wasn’t a big one. Because there’s no ground cover, it’s very likely any kind of rain hitting those will create mudslides and possibly a lot of erosion.”

Based on the current forecast, Arakawa anticipates 14 to 18 hours of severe weather, followed by continued rain.

“We will try to be able to protect the community as best as we possibly can, but if the surf gets to the point where it’s breaking onto Honoapiilani Highway going to Lahaina, we may actually have Lahaina isolated for awhile,” he said. “Be prepared to stay in Lahaina if the roadway gets inundated and we’ll try to clear it as soon as we can. As the surf goes back down, we’ll allow traffic to go through again.”

As for Molokai and Lanai, Arakawa says crews are working to stage resources and equipment there, such as generators.

“However, they are different islands, so depending on the severity of Olivia and what we have to deal with, we may have to put more reinforcements there if possible,” he said.

The county also has the assistance of 30 personnel from FEMA and the Hawaii National Guard, as well as advisers.

“In all my years as mayor, I don’t think it’s ever been this coordinated,” he noted. “I just want to thank the governor and his staff and everybody else to really put in the time and energy to do this right.”

In addition to our newscasts, KHON2 will air hourly updates on Tropical Storm Olivia on-air and online through the 11 p.m. update from the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.

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