Author Topic: Fire in Maui  (Read 317 times)

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Offline daniel1948

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Fire in Maui
« on: July 12, 2019, 11:57:17 AM »
Some time around mid-day yesterday (don't remember exactly what time) I noticed clouds that were unusually gray to the west and south of me, the two directions of my primary windows from my living room. After a while I went out onto my balcony to have a better look and then I saw, to the north, a humongous column of dense black smoke rising up and then drifting my way. As time went on the smoke descended over my area and there was ash settling out of the sky. A bit later (2:00 p.m. give or take a half an hour?) my phone started to make a blood-curdling howl, and an alert came through: North Kihei residents prepare to evacuate. I gathered up what seemed essential: My medicines, glasses, cards, money, some clothing, my phone, tablet, and Kindle, chargers, can't remember what else, all into a pile. A short while after that another howl from the phone announced another alert: Kihei residents north of Ohukai Road evacuate now. I put my pile of stuff in a paper bag and a small box, loaded them into the car, and drove to the shelter mentioned in the alert. The highway looked blocked with traffic so I went the other way to South Kihei Road, which was also packed with cars, but was moving by stops and starts.

At the shelter I stood in a short line and checked in (they wanted names and phone numbers and how many were in your group). I told the volunteer that I can afford a hotel room, though I'd prefer not to spend $1,000/night on one of the fancy resorts, and she gave me the names of the two non-resort hotels accessible from there. I am not good at web browsing on my small phone, but I managed to find their local phone numbers. One was full, and the other didn't answer. I left a message and they never got back to me, probably because of the flood of similar calls. So I settled down to wait at the shelter, where there was donated food and water. I had already eaten lunch and was not hungry, but I took a water bottle.

My renter had left a few minutes before me. She is an engineer and I'm not entirely sure but I think she is the person in charge of a large construction project of a national company. They booked her a room in one of the resorts. She checked for me, and they were fully booked. She told me she'd let me use one of the other beds in her room if her company didn't fill them, but unsurprisingly, the company put other employees in the room.

At the shelter I made friends with the people sitting at the same table I was. There was a couple from Vancouver, Canada, who had just arrived the day before. There was a family (parents and high-school girl) who were visiting from Wisconsin and staying in Lahaina, who had driven down to Kihei to visit the brewery and then couldn't get back to Lahaina because of the fire. There was a single man living in Lahaina. There was a French Canadian couple staying in Kahului. The woman from Wisconsin was getting the news on her phone and sharing that with the rest of us.

The shelter was not particularly comfortable, with bench-seat tables, but being Maui, the temperature was comfortable, with a pleasant breeze coming through. Oh, it was an elementary school, and we were in what was probably the auditorium. The bathrooms were clean and there was plenty of tp. They ran out of paper towels, but my hands dried in the air in a couple of minutes. The volunteers, all wearing Red Cross vests, were extremely nice. I don't think the Red Cross actually provided anything other than the vests for the volunteers. The food was donated by two feeding programs and a local restaurant. There wasn't much official information, but the volunteers announced everything they heard. The word was that no homes were immediately threatened, but the smoke over North Kihei was too thick to return there. The place gradually cleared out as roads were opened and people were able to get to Kahului and Lahaina. The single man left as soon as the road to Lahaina was open, and the French Canadian couple left when Kahului was accessible. The Wisconsin family was scheduled to fly out the next day (today, as I write this) but their flight was delated into the wee hours of tomorrow, and their connection was re-booked. Some flights were diverted to Oahu during the period when there were no open roads out of the airport, but those roads were restored and flights resumed, with delays.

When Lahaina became accessible, the drive time was an hour and a half, but when that shrunk to an hour, the family decided to chance it, and they left. By 8:00 p.m. I was feeling grimy, and not at all hopeful of getting home before morning, if then. Of course, the possibility of losing the home I just bought three months ago was a very depressing thought. It's fully insured, but I'd still be without a home. Then at 9:45, when I had decided to go out to my car to try to sleep, because there was no decent way to sleep at the shelter, I asked one of the volunteers to come out to my car if the all-clear came, as she had previously offered to do that, but they were on their phones trying to get updated information, and while I stood there, they announced that residents south of Uwapo Road could return home! The remaining couple from my table were staying just north of there so could not leave yet, but I finally returned home. The smoke was still unpleasant, and the smell was strong, but I got home. The autopilot on my Tesla works at night in light smoke. I was grateful for this because I have poor night vision.

It was truly wonderful to be able to take a shower and get into my own bed. This morning there's a heavy haze of smoke, but not nearly as bad as it was yesterday. The power had gone out in my neighborhood a little before I left, but I had power, thanks to my Powerwalls. And this morning it's back on. It will be interesting to see how much power the solar panels can produce under the smoke haze.

There were at least three separate fires, leading some of us to wonder if it was arson. It just seems so unlikely that three separate fires would happen all in the same day. There's been no lightning, but it is very dry here, more so than in many years, according to one person. This is the dry side of the island. I have no idea if anyone will show up at the canoe club today, but in a half an hour I'll walk down and see. It's probably a bad idea to exercise in the smoke, but maybe it won't be as bad out on the water, and I want to paddle.

Apologies for typos. No time to proofread before I need to get ready to walk to the canoe club.
Daniel
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Offline Swagomatic

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Re: Fire in Maui
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2019, 12:10:08 PM »
Wow, that's a scary story.  I'm glad to hear your home is okay (and you, too). 
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Fire in Maui
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2019, 10:49:58 PM »
Thanks. I'm seeing smoke again and I can smell it, but it appears farther away and is not overhead. I haven't seen any news about anything in my area. Right now they're fighting fires in Kahului. Lowe's and Target have voluntarily closed due to nearby fires. Nobody is being ordered to evacuate as of now, as far as I know.
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck

Offline Noisy Rhysling

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Re: Fire in Maui
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2019, 08:07:59 AM »
Friggin' spammer.
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Offline The Latinist

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Re: Fire in Maui
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2019, 10:12:12 AM »
I don’t think I realized you were on Maui.  I guess I assumed you were on the big island.
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Fire in Maui
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2019, 10:53:00 AM »
My first visit to the state was the Big Island. I was not terribly impressed by it. My second time was also the Big Island, for a freediving class. There was a canoe club next door to my hotel and they let me paddle with them (I've since learned that many, if not most, canoe clubs welcome visitors; if any of you come to Maui, PM me for details about coming out to paddle with the clubs I belong to) and the very first time I fell in love with it. So a couple of years later I decided to come back specifically for paddling. Canoe clubs typically go out for an hour, but there are private outfitters that (for a price) will take you out on a kayak for three hours. Maui happened to be the island where I found the outfitter I liked the best, so I came here. I liked it (and them) so much I kept coming back, so this is where I ended up when I decided to move here.

Maui apparently has the best prospects for seeing whales in winter, and also, off the eastern (leeward) side has the best conditions for paddling. And our volcano has not erupted for over 200 years and most vulcanologists think it's probably extinct.

An addendum to my story: My injury: As a result of sitting at the table for most of 7 hours with my elbows resting on the table for much of that time, I have raw, sore spots on my elbows where the skin got abraded. As far as I've heard, that's about the worst injury reported so far from the fires. I speculate that I might not be the only one this happened to, since several hundred people spent a number of hours in the shelters.
Daniel
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"Anyone who has ever looked into the glazed eyes of a soldier dying on the battlefield will think long and hard before starting a war."
-- Otto von Bismarck