Maui in the Wake of Hurricane Dora

“Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way.” – Franz Kafka

T​his is a phrase that comes to mind today as I try to put into words the shroud of despair that has gripped our little island. In the wake of Hurricane Dora, today presents a very different day. Lahaina is gone.

Normally we see rain and flooding when we think of hurricanes in Hawaii. However this was a rare and different dynamic. Hurricane Dora passed south of the island chain creating enormously strong winds that met with high humidity and a long drought on the south and west sides of Maui. The combination of which met our land with a tinderbox effect.
News is still unfolding as this is an ongoing situation. Fire trucks are passing my house as I type. We know we have lost our beloved Lahaina town. There are many members of our community who have lost their homes and businesses, their possessions and their pets. It is an enormous tragedy. We see a devastating and rising count of those who have lost their lives. This fire came quickly, with no warning and with great ferocity.
lahaina front street

We’ve lost the historic buildings.

Lahaina was Hawaii Kingdom’s capital in the 1900s. King Kamehameha had a brick palace built in Lahaina with his residences and other royal buildings. It served as the center of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s government for over 50 years before its ultimate move to Honolulu. For centuries Lahaina was a sleepy fishing village but it became a famed center for the whaling industry when ships landed in droves in the 1820s.

Gone are favorite bars and restaurants. Churches, temples, Pioneer Inn, Bubba Gumps, Cheeseburger in Paradise are no more. The fire consumed art showrooms, galleries, souvenir shops, ice cream parlors, clothing and ABC stores. The nation’s largest and oldest, the famous banyan tree also burned. The existing count sits at 270 structures lost.

front street in lahaina maui

This was a quaint historic town (I gasp to speak of it already in past tense). I am pretty certain everyone who reads this will have made a day of going to this landmark town if you’ve ever been to Maui. You may have even purchased a piece of Hawaiian heirloom jewelry from one of the shops, scrimshaw, a relic of Lahaina’s whaling history, or a favorite t-shirt from Crazy Shirts or the ABC store. You may have sat listening to music on the rooftop deck at Fleetwoods. We all have our precious memories of this town, it has existed for all of our lifetimes.

Today, we rally together to meet a very urgent need for those who have been directly affected by the fires.

Smoke and dust hover above the ruins and has Lahaina being compared to as a war zone. Search and rescue teams began their task today of combing through the decimation of this once vibrant town.

I live in Kihei and although we spent 2 sleepless nights on alert that we may have to evacuate, Kihei remained safe.  Our firefighters have been working tirelessly and heroically through every hour of these fires. Kula and Kihei continue at this hour to see the firefighters at work dropping water on the brush fires which are now contained. Winds are due to die down by tomorrow with Hurricane Dora moving west of the islands. Please know this continues as a Breaking News story so I encourage you to check for updates.
Though rest assured we have seen the most incredible surge of support through this historic catastrophe. Alas, the enormous grit of our people leaves me in awe. We see all around us this full launch to action to help in any and every conceivable way to restore basic human resources to those who are bereft. We begin now the business of restoring at every level.
Federal help is on the way we are told, and our statewide community is in full swing donating time, money, accommodations and filling the food banks with much needed food and supplies.

My heart bursts at the drop off at our Maui Humane Society where you see the enormity of the response at this shelter for our animals.

Basically, I think you’ll find, for the most part, we are still in shock. However, these are early days. As time goes by we will reach a new hope and vision. In the meantime, we hold, all of us, our cherished memories and loved ones ever nearer. And we see emerging these unnamed heroes who launch into action and make a difference. Aloha is surging here.
Within an apocalyptic span of 24 hours Lahaina is gone. Maui is in mourning, nay, our ohana which is worldwide, is in mourning. This touches all of us.
Filtering through many emails, texts and messages from all over the world in response to the headlines many of you woke to, I am brimming over with the support you have shown to me. Please know that I have broad shoulders for you to lean on too at this time. I know this news has hit through to the heart of you.
I began this blog with a quote by Franz Kafka,
“Everything you love will probably be lost, but in the end, love will return in another way.”
We will rebuild. Hold your loved ones dear.
And just as a ray of hope, a footnote here that the Bishop Museum Historian from Honolulu believes that the famous Lahaina banyan tree, once it sheds its dead leaves and limbs, may indeed survive.
With my warmest Aloha,

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Keith Uthe

August 12, 2023

So beautifully written. You brought me to tears. We can’t imagine what all the residents of Maui are going through and what has been lost from precious lives, homes and businesses.

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