The Hawaii Department of Education reopened school and related activities for most campuses statewide, following an onslaught of heavy rainfall and flooding from Tropical Storm Lane.
Classes and normal operations resumed on Monday, although school bus service was still intermittent in some areas. Four schools in Lahaina, Maui remained closed.
In a statement on Sunday, the department of education said it continues to work with county, state and federal emergency management agencies to assess campuses and offices for impacts from the storm.
“Department staff and their families have shown a tremendous amount of resiliency as they work diligently through the weekend to prepare our schools and offices to open [Monday],” said Superintendent Dr. Christina M. Kishimoto. “Mahalo to our school communities for their patience and support. I urge them to remain vigilant and prepared through the rest of the hurricane season.”
The National Weather Service on Friday downgraded Hurricane Lane to a Category 2 storm from a Category 4 and then over the weekend to a tropical storm. But it still brought torrential rains and high winds, as the closest approach to the islands occurred overnight Friday and into Saturday, with coastal flooding and mudslides as a result. Lane was downgraded to a tropical storm over the weekend.
The agency issued a hurricane warning for all islands except Kauai, which was under a hurricane watch and a flash food watch due to heavy rainfall. There it fell 10 to 20 inches across the islands, and as much as 48 inches in some areas, as well as high surf. It also issued a flash flood warning for half of the big island and a flood advisory for the southern tip of Maui.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday that heavy rainfall over Maui was expected to mirror the effects of Hurricane Harvey last year on southeast Texas. NOAA added that Hurricane Lane is predicted to impact Hawaii’s energy grid, similar to what Hurricane Maria did in Puerto Rico, also last year.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency urged residents to prepare emergency kits that contain a minimum of 14 days’ worth of food, water and other supplies. The Hawaii Department of Education added that neighborhood schools were also designated as emergency shelters.
Residents on the big island have already experienced anxiety and displacement the past several months with the latest Kilauea volcano eruption. It has destroyed hundreds of homes, reshaped entire neighborhoods, as well as island topography, and negatively impacted air quality. Hurricane Lane was expected to make landfall on the Big Island on Friday, and the National Weather Service said heavy rain was already hitting the island, as well as Maui.
James Kauhi, the student transportation services branch manager for the department of education, told School Transportation News on Wednesday that all school bus contractor operations were suspended, with the vehicles being secured in “safe locations” at higher ground, depending on each given company’s emergency plan. He said that the school buses are not being used for evacuations, as residents are being encouraged to shelter in place or go to one of several shelters in their community.
“The primary concern for most (people) is flooding conditions due to the heavy rains,” he explained. “For me, the concern is what kind of damage the storm leaves behind, which could complicate transportation once school resumes.”
School bus contractor Ground Transport, Inc., suspended all student transportation services on Maui on Tuesday, and then on Thursday, suspended operations on Oahu, company President Louis Gomes told STN.