WALUKU – Sunday afternoon, firefighters responded to three separate incidents of teenagers caught by unexpected flash flooding along the Iao Stream, in the Wailuku area of Central Maui.
At 1:34 p.m., fire crews were dispatched to Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley, for people swept downstream by flood waters. Wailuku firefighters arrived at the park at 1:46 p.m. and learned that an 11 year-old male and 12 year-old female had been assisted out of the stream by by-standers prior to their arrival. Paramedics treated the pair for minor bumps and scraps. The children are residents of Wailuku.
As firefighters were confirming everyone at the park was accounted for, 911 dispatchers informed crews of another possible swift-water rescue at Iao Valley State Park. A Kahului rescue crew en route to Kepaniwai Park was redirected to the second incident at the State Park. Rescue 10 arrived at 1:56 p.m. and learned that an 18-year-old male resident from Haiku was stranded on the south side of Iao Stream.
The man was swimming with four other family members at the popular swimming holes along the footpath within the park, when they heard sounds of rocks rumbling just before the rush of water forced them to scramble up the embankment. The man became stranded on the opposite side because it was the quickest path to safety. Rescue crews used a rope secured across the stream to walk the man safely across. No one was injured.
At 2:05 p.m. firefighters from Kahului responded to yet another call for two stranded teenagers in an area of Iao Stream, roughly a half-mile above Mokuhau Park in Happy Valley. Crews arrived at 2:19 p.m. and learned that a group of seven children from Wailuku, ranging in ages from 10 to 16, were swimming at a local swimming hole when a flash flood caught them by surprise. A 15 year-old female and a 16 year-old male managed to scramble up the side of the stream. A resident on Iao Valley road used a rope to help the teens up to his property on the south side of the stream. A fire battalion chief picked up the teens and drove them back to Mokuhau Park where firefighters were gathering information. None of the teens were injured.
Despite only a light drizzle in Iao Valley when firefighters arrived, it was not apparent that flash flood conditions was occurring higher upslope. However, dark clouds were seen deeper within the valley. A check of weather radar at 1:50 p.m. did show a heavy downpour over the West Maui mountains. In fact, a flash flood advisory was in effect for several hours Sunday night in the upper elevations of Maui – with downslope areas warned as well.
The public is reminded to be alert when swimming in mountain streams. Pay attention to the weather, and be vigilant if there are dark clouds in the mountains upslope of you. If you hear a strange rumbling sound like river rocks being tossed into each other, if you notice the water quickly turning brown or rising very rapidly, find the quickest path to high ground. Once on high ground, wait until rescuers arrive or until flood waters recede. Don’t attempt to walk out on your own because it will make it more difficult for rescuers to locate you or confirm that you are safe. Also, you could become lost or injured while attempting to find your own way out.
Firefighters from Wailuku and Kahului, along with a battalion chief responded to the incidents.