VIDEO: Maui Iselle Damage Assessment Underway

August 18, 2014, 3:09 PM HST · Updated August 19, 8:25 AM
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Iselle Storm Damage - Maui. Trees down in ʻUlupalakua 4:30 p.m. 8/8/14. Photo by Seth Welcker.

Iselle Storm Damage – Maui. Trees down in ʻUlupalakua 4:30 p.m. 8/8/2014. Photo by Seth Welcker.

By Wendy Osher

Maui County continues to assess damages sustained in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Iselle, as the state works toward compiling a final estimate to be used in determining qualification for federal funding assistance.

“We don’t have an actual financial estimate right now, but we do know that there was some damage,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa in an exclusive interview with Maui Now.

“What will happen is all of the forms will be compiled to a state total, and that will allow us to apply for FEMA funding as a state. So it’s important for everyone (with damage) to file because we want to have the entire total to be at a level that we can accept FEMA money,” he said.

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As recovery efforts continue in heavily hit areas of Puna on Hawaiʻi Island, crews here on Maui continue to assess damage in areas like ʻUlupalakua on Maui where wind and rain knocked down trees and power lines, and Hāna, where storm surge affected coastal communities.

Iselle Storm Damage - Maui. Trees down in ʻUlupalakua 4:30 p.m. 8/8/14. Photo by Seth Welcker.

Iselle Storm Damage – Maui. Trees down in ʻUlupalakua 4:30 p.m. 8/8/2014. Photo by Seth Welcker.

“I had the opportunity to go to ʻUlupalakua on Saturday to assess some of the damage from the storm. There are trees scattered all over the place,” said Arakawa. In talking with some of the ranch people, Arakawa said, they estimate it’s going to take months for them to clear up all the fence lines and the trees that have fallen down.

“They are very fortunate (that) the shed that they had equipment in, they moved the equipment out. That shed is completely demolished. There are other buildings that were down, but no loss of homes and lives, which is very, very important,” said Arakawa.

“As you go around toward Hāna, there are some pockets there that have sustained damage, but not a whole lot of damage — just along the coastline. I looked at one place where the fishponds are — all the walls were collapsed in, and there was a lot of debris that was brought in from the ocean. There were some buildings that fell down, but mostly they were sheds — no houses,” he said.

Also in East Maui, the mayor assessed damage in Kaupō where he said an old school building that is being looked at for possible conversion into a future community center “would have completely collapsed” if precautions to brace the building were not taken.

Damage from Iselle at the winery in Ulupalakua. Photo by Heather Miller.

Damage from Iselle at the winery in Ulupalakua. Photo by Heather Miller.

The county continues to accept storm assessment reports from residents and businesses who are still in the process of filling out forms. Government officials say they ran into some individuals who were reluctant to fill out forms, but continue to encourage residents to do so if they sustained damage.

To report storm related damage online, Maui residents can do so by going to the County of Maui website, clicking on “Report Storm Related Damage” and filling out the damage report.

In reflecting on the storm impacts Mayor Arakawa discussed how Maui County fared.

“I think it’s safe to say that we’re very happy that we did not receive the full brunt of Hurricane Iselle’s wind and damage. We’re very, very fortunate that Julio veered off to the north. So we didn’t feel the effects of Julio at all. However, the preparedness — the actions that we did have to take are definitely serving out a purpose even now,” he said.

“The ability for our crews to get up there and to help out almost immediately was very, very beneficial as well. They were able to restore power to ʻUlupalakua fairly quickly. They were able to clear the roadways so that the cars could pass through, and that made it at least livable for a lot of people that are out there. Without that kind of immediate action, it would have been miserable — just like the Big Island is miserable still,” said Mayor Arakawa.

The preparedness did not go unnoticed, according to Mayor Arakawa. “In a lot of areas where trees fell and power went out, our crews had to be working all through the night to restore power, to remove trees from the roads. Even though they were isolated instances, there were quite a few — Pukalani for instance was out of power a number of times; Makawao and Olinda was out of power for some period of time; we had areas in Haʻikū, even Lahaina had power outages that our crews had to deal with. Maui Electric crews were out there all night for several days after,” he said.

Iselle Storm Damage - Maui. Trees down in Ulupalakua 4:30 p.m. 8/8/14. Photo by Seth Welcker.

Iselle Storm Damage – Maui. Trees down in Ulupalakua 4:30 p.m. 8/8/2014. Photo by Seth Welcker.

Mayor Arakawa said many of the emergency relief groups and hotels were able to keep tourists safe, informed and prepared.

As for the resident population, the mayor said, “We were able to keep a lot of our personnel and our people safe because people heeded our warnings — they stocked up early to make sure they had supplies, and they stayed at home and kept off the streets so that our emergency crews could clean up and their lives weren’t jeopardized by falling trees or power lines.”

“We just want to thank everybody in our community for heeding the warnings and staying off the streets and helping our crews by just not being a nuisance and in the way,” he said.

Looking ahead, the mayor urged the public to remain vigilant since the hurricane season in Hawaiʻi runs through the end of November.

“We’re in an El Niño type of situation where this year the weather is scheduled to be a little bit more abnormal than usual, so I’m going to advise everyone to please keep a hurricane preparedness kit; make sure you have adequate water, medical supplies, and food for sustenance — at least seven days,” said Arakawa.

“We need to be able to brace up a lot of things (and) make sure that we are safe and we can continue to be safe; but keep being prepared and keep an eye on the news channels to make sure that you’re getting the weather reports and you know what’s happening,” he said.

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