Heavy rainfall in Hawaii's Maui damaged homes, sparked evacuations and worries over possible dam failure

A dam on the Hawaiian island of Maui is in imminent danger of failure and an evacuation order has been issued for residents "downstream of Kaupakalua Dam in Haiku," according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. Mayor of Maui County Michael Victorino addresses the media about the evacuation order.

Posted: Mar 9, 2021 8:01 PM
Updated: Mar 9, 2021 8:01 PM

The mayor of Maui has asked some residents to evacuate and others to shelter in place due to flooding that threatened to cause a dam failure earlier Monday and has already damaged or destroyed at least half a dozen homes.

The Maui Fire Department reported it received more than a dozen calls for help from residents who were trapped in their homes because of rising flood waters, according to an update from the County of Maui.

"The current weather situation has created very dangerous flooding situation throughout the County of Maui, especially in east Maui," Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is a real flooding situation we have not seen in a long time," adding that some residents told him that this is the worst flooding they've seen in over 25 years.

More than 1,300 customers have no power

Heavy rains caused the water in the Kaupakalua Dam in Haiku to crest early Monday, and breach around 3:21 p.m. local time, according to a statement from the County of Maui.

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency ordered those downstream to evacuate and three shelters were opened for those in need.

The National Weather Service said that additional heavy rainfall could lead to a short-notice flash flood warning for areas downstream of the dam and advised residents to follow instructions provided by Maui emergency management officials.

The governor said he was ready to assist the area during evacuations.

"The state is standing by to support the County of Maui as residents and visitors downstream of the Kaupakulua Dam evacuate at this hour. Please stay out of the area until the danger has passed and continue to monitor local media for updates," Hawaii Gov. David Ige said in a statement.

A bridge in Maui County was wiped out by the community's ongoing flooding.

"Flood waters destroyed Peahi Bridge and heavily damaged Kaupakalua Bridge in Haiku," the county announced in a public notice.

Victorino, Maui's mayor, said Tuesday that homes and bridges have been severely damaged in the community's flooding emergency.

"This has been unprecedented flooding, and we will be making damage assessments today," Victorino said in a statement.

Power was knocked out to more than 1,300 customers. Maui officials said the county has been able to reopen most public parks on the island. A flash flood watch remains in effect for all of Hawaii until 6 a.m. HST Wednesday.

Residents describe flooding

Carmen Gardner told CNN said she has lived in the area for 40 years and has never seen flooding this bad.

She recorded videos showing how quick and forceful the water has flooded the area She said she was safe above the Kaupakalua Dam.

"Winter of 88-89 was some flooding during a downpour but never anything close to this," she told CNN. "Kaupakalua Road looked like the Colorado River. It is below us, but there is a flash flood ongoing at the bottom (lower) edge of our property that appears to have already taken out one of the unpermitted structures they rented out."

Gardner said the rentals below her appeared to be "damaged heavily."

Ana Paula DeCarlo told CNN her family was safe although they were stuck at home due to the roadway washing out. She recorded video that showed water rushing over the roadway that used to have a small stream under it.

"Yes, it's like a bridge, small one over a stream," she said of the road. "It hasn't stopped raining one second. We are about 15 minutes away from the dam."

"This is our street right now. We can't go anywhere. The street disappeared, it's gone!," she posted on Instagram.

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