A firefighter was critically injured after getting swept into a storm drain in Kihei on Friday afternoon, as nearly 13 inches of rain pelted parts of Maui and emergency officials warned of “unstable weather” ahead.
The firefighter was with a crew responding to flooded homes in Kihei when he was caught in a 4-foot-wide storm drain and was carried by storm waters about 800 yards to where the drain emptied into the ocean, Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said Friday evening. Firefighters and emergency personnel were able to retrieve the firefighter from the shoreline.
He was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center in critical condition and remains under the care of physicians, Martin said.
Fire Chief Brad Ventura and Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. also went to the hospital emergency room to offer support to firefighters and family members.
“We are focused on supporting the firefighter’s family and ask that our community join us in prayers for his recovery,” Martin said.
The Maui Fire Department plans to review the incident.
The firefighter’s serious injury and heavy rainfall across Maui County spurred emergency officials to urge caution as “an unstable weather pattern over Hawaii” brings the risk of hazardous weather across the state this weekend, including flooding, landslides and gusty winds, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said Friday evening.
Clouds and showers are expected to develop over Maui County for the next couple of days, with the bulk of the rainfall hitting windward slopes and coasts but possibly spreading to leeward areas and elevating stream flow, the National Weather Service said.
On Friday, nearly 13 inches of rain fell in areas of East Maui and close to 5 inches soaked areas of Upcountry, forcing closures of public facilities and putting Maui County under a flood watch through 6 p.m. Sunday.
The West Wailuaiki gauge in East Maui tallied 12.92 inches of rain over a 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Friday, the most of any other location in the state, while the Puu Alii gauge near Molokai’s Waikolu Valley logged 5.18 inches of rain, the second-highest total statewide.
Upcountry, the Pukalani gauge reported 4.85 inches, followed closely by the Kula Branch Station gauge at 4.56 inches.
At King Kekaulike High School, officials notified families that buses would be delayed due to the weather. The cafeteria remained open for students to wait out the rain, the school said in a message to families on Friday afternoon.
In Kula, a 2-inch waterline broke due to heavy rains and was running through a drain culvert on Kula Highway and Lower Kula Road, the county said Friday night. Four houses will experience a water service outage through Saturday morning. A water buffalo tank is located at Anuhea Place and Lower Kula Road.
Farther up the mountain, Haleakala National Park closed its Summit District above Leleiwi Overlook at the 8,840-foot elevation due to hazardous road conditions. Flooding on roadways also forced the cancellation of all reservations for the Hosmer Grove Campground on Friday, park officials announced.
Park closures included the Kalahaku Overlook at 7,990 feet, the Haleakala Visitor Center at 9,740 feet, the Pa Ka’oao Trail, Keonehe’ehe’e Trailhead and Pu’u’ula’ula Summit at 10,023 feet.
Officials advised against traveling to the summit for sunset viewing due to the hazardous weather conditions. Sunrise reservations for Saturday had not been canceled as of Friday afternoon, but reservation holders should check the park website at nps.gov/hale for potential closures ahead of time.
Wilderness cabin and campsite reservation holders may still access the crater but must do so via the Halemau’u Trailhead at 7,990 feet. Backpackers and hikers are advised to prepare for heavy rain and challenging weather conditions.
The Kipahulu District remains open.
Other areas of the island also saw significant rainfall — the Puu Kukui gauge recorded 2.85 inches of rain over the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Friday, while the Kihei No. 2 gauge logged 1.89 inches. Rainfall totals also reached 1.85 inches at the Hana Airport, 1.61 inches each in Haiku and Wailuku and 1.47 inches at the Mahinahina gauge in West Maui.
Maui County closed the Central Maui Landfill on Friday until further notice, with barriers set up on Pulehu Road above the landfill. Heavy rains caused flooding and left debris on access roads to the landfill, making them impassable, the county said.
The county also shut down Baldwin Beach Park and all sports fields at its park facilities. The Department of Parks and Recreation will monitor conditions and reassess the parks before reopening.
South Kihei Road was closed from North Kihei Road to Waipuilani Road on Friday afternoon, with no immediate estimated time for reopening, the county said. On the back side of Kaupo, Piilani Highway will remain closed between Mile Posts 30 and 32 in the Nuu area until work crews can assess the area Saturday morning.
The Maui Emergency Management Agency has activated its Emergency Operation Center and asked residents to report structural property damage online. To access the form, visit mauicounty.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=12241.
“This weather pattern presents several different hazards at different places within the state, and we’re urging our residents and visitors to be careful and prepared,” HI-EMA Administrator Luke Meyers said. “Sign up for your local county alerts to be sure you receive the most up to date and reliable information.”
To sign up for alerts for any county in Hawaii, visit dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/get-ready/.
* Colleen Uechi can be reached at [email protected].
READY FOR ANYTHING
How to prepare for severe weather
With “unstable weather” headed for the state this weekend, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is urging residents and visitors to be prepared for the risk of flooding, landslides and gusty winds.
Here are some tips the agency offers in the event of severe weather:
• Avoid unnecessary travel when heavy rain is in the forecast. It can reduce visibility, make it harder to stop and can cause flooding in low-lying areas, especially when culverts become clogged with debris.
• Do not cross flowing water by vehicle or on foot — turn around, don’t drown.
• Do not go near downed power lines.
• Secure items around the home or lanai that may become airborne in high winds.
• Be aware of surrounding hazards — waterlogged soil on steep terrain increases the risk of landslides.
• Make a plan in case flooding or property damage makes it unsafe to stay at home, work or another location. Identify an escape route, a place to meet if family members get separated and a point of contact in another area to connect with if local communication systems fail.
• Check to make sure you have spare batteries for a flashlight and portable radio; use extra caution to avoid fires if the power goes out and you use candles for light.
• Pack a “go kit” with items needed to relocate in a hurry, such as food, water, a flashlight, a battery-powered or crank-charged radio, etc. Learn more about go kits at dod.hawaii.gov/hiema/files/2018/07/2022-0622-2Weeks ReadyBrochure.pdf.