Mauians Head to Higher Ground

LAHAINA — By noon eastern standard time or 7 a.m. in Maui, patrol officers in Lahaina had been working for several hours to evacuate beach parks and remote low-lying areas, said Capt. Charles Hirata, commander of the Lahaina Patrol District.

Most people seemed to be aware of the tsunami warning.

By 4:30 a.m., with many people heading from lower areas to the Kapalua-West Maui Airport, traffic was backed up on Akahele Road leading to the airport, said fire Battalion Chief Val Martin.

He said there were plenty of other areas for people to move to higher ground. Maui Land & Pineapple Co. opened its mauka gates from Honokowai to Honolua, he said.

Residents were being told to move to ground above Honoapiilani Highway. “Just go mauka,” Martin said. “We’re trying to get people above the highway.”

Lanai residents had already been evacuated from low-lying areas including Club Lanai and Shipwreck Beach, Martin said. “We’re just going to have to see what happens.”

On Molokai, he said fire equipment and personnel from the Pukoo and Kaunakakai fire stations were moving to higher ground. “We want to be useful after the event,” Martin said. “We don’t want to be stuck in the mud.”

At the Kahului Fire Station, plans were under way to move equipment and personnel to the Fire Department’s warehouse in the Waikapu light industrial area, said acting Battalion Chief Louis Romero.

While the fire station on Dairy Road isn’t in a tsunami zone, Romero noted that in the 1960 tsunami, water reached Christ The King Church, which is a few blocks away from the Kahului station.

“We just want to be safe,” Romero said. “We don’t want to be victims, we want to be responders.”

The Fire Department’s Air One helicopter was being used to do reconnaissance of shoreline areas.

In addition to evacuating people from lower ground, police officers were making checks of long lines at gas stations “to make sure people don’t get edgy out there,” Hirata said.

He said officers who were working overnight were being held over at work, while other officers were being called in to work early.