Fast-moving fires are raging through the Hawaiian island of Maui, consuming everything in its path. The flames intensified last Tuesday, August 1, as aggressive winds whipped through the mountains as Hurricane Dora intensified in tandem. The smoky West Maui Mountains left residents no choice but to evacuate, some even swimming out into the open ocean to save themselves from the rapid fires. One devastating casualty was the small historic town of Lahaina holding only 12,000 people—the once hierarchy capital of Hawaii and home to the banyan tree. Residents, businesses, and other establishments lost electricity, as well as many structures losing to the strength of the flames. Officials also blocked off access to popular resorts, and many roads were closed in West Maui with the exception of emergency workers.
Hurricane Dora, a Category 4 storm, sat 700 miles South of Honolulu by August 2, but never reached physical terrain. As Dora is not the main cause of the wildfires, it has been fueling the oxygen sources with larger and harsher gusts of winds. Working in tandem with the hurricane, winds have caused a red flag warning, but according to The Weather Service, winds are supposed to diminish this week as Dora moves west. In Maui County, more than 15,800 power outages have occurred, most public schools were shut down, several parts across the state were slated to evacuate, and many emergency shelters were closed due to encroaching fires.
As Dora starts to travel west and the high-pressure wind system coming in from the north starts to thin, winds will alleviate throughout the affected areas. Road closures have also made it difficult for residents to find shelter, or even evacuate. Set up as an impromptu, temporary shelter, the Maui’s Kahului Airport housed more than 1,800 people overnight since the fires occurred. Another shelter site has been set up at the Maui High School, taking in more than 1,200 people, providing cots and blankets.
All the islands of Hawaii have been hit recently with heightened heat waves and areas of drought. The island of Maui is currently the driest of the Hawaiian states, with recorded conditions being observed by the U.S. Drought Monitor. Across the state of Maui, winds are expected to reach 45 miles per hour with sporadic gusts up to 60 miles per hour. The USDM agency has now warned residents to secure properties and other entities, and expect the possibility of immediate travel.