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Miracle on Maui: Tear it down, put it back

By Staff | Aug 21, 2014

Aloha Mixed Plate workers removed tables and chairs. PHOTOS BY NORM BEZANE.

LAHAINA – Launching a digital news site recently to supplement this column, it seemed only logical recently to cover Hurricane/Tropical Storm Iselle before it hit and after. The result is 34 photos placed on the new site and a new appreciation for the visitor industry that followed the Boy Scout motto of “BE PREPARED” at all the places readers love to go.

Thursday afternoon, Aug. 7, 4 p.m., Lahaina – Ice cream stores jammed. Kimo’s and Aloha Mixed Plate stack all of their chairs and tables away from the ocean as a precaution. Jim Killett of Lahaina Galleries jokes with the columnist, suggesting a photo of him applying Band-Aids to his windows instead of the traditional tape.

A closed sign at Mick Fleetwood’s restaurant was still there the next afternoon, even though many competitors had reopened.

Thursday, 7 p.m., Kaanapali – Walked through the Kaanapali Beach Hotel, where staff emptied the entire center courtyard and adjoining tented restaurant, with only the framework of the tent left standing. Computers in the lobby were later shrouded in plastic.

On to the beach path; you could roll a coconut for hundreds of feet without hitting anyone. All but a very few people were inside.

Lahaina Galleries on Front Street protected its sign as the storm neared the Big Island on Thursday.

On to Hula Grill; every table and chair downstairs in its beach bar and dining area are removed. At the Whalers Village entrance, a “mall closed and no trespassers” sign. Across the way to Leilani’s on the Beach, where chairs were stacked and pulled back. On to the new Sugar Shack restaurant next door at the Westin – the only one on the main stretch of the resort open for business. Time to stop for a Coconut Sangria at the jammed restaurant, which is set back quite a distance from the beach path.

Back at the Vintage at Kaanapali; condominium Manager Paul Hagan checked the lanais of away Mainlanders to secure their furniture.

2 a.m., Friday, Aug. 8 – Kaanapali Beach Hotel concierges end their shift in which they answer guests’ questions, returning again at 6 a.m. to help fix canceled airplane reservations. Chefs made sandwiches to be passed out free with water to guests.

Friday, 9:45 a.m. – The columnist reports on Lahaina preparations, and photos are shown from the website on Hawaii News Now. The columnist was the only reporter on Maui in any media over the full week to report on meaningful events in Lahaina and the beach resort.

Sometimes we wonder if we are on the same island as Kahului.

Visitors were happy to hit the beach in Kaanapali on Friday.

Friday, 11 a.m. Kaanapali – Chairs and tables all in place and more people than you almost ever see at Hula Grill eating and drinking. It was like the first day of spring in Chicago, where everyone flocks outdoors.

A packed house at Leilani’s but chairs still stacked outside a plastic curtain, where JD and his group will play later that afternoon steps from the beach path.

On the beach, a family from California watches their son rake sand and lends the columnist a cell phone (mine was dead). They were some of the very few who had ventured out Friday evening to enjoy the balmy breeze and quiet atmosphere. Quite a few people building sand castles.

At 4 p.m. in Lahaina, Jack Starr of Kimo’s had already supervised the return of all tables and chairs and brings entrees to a table of four (managers do everything when needed). Pioneer Inn – which also had stacked chairs – is open. “We were slammed with customers until 3 p.m.,” an employee said.

At Captain Jacks high above Front Street and Cool Cat Cafe, it was business as usual on a Friday afternoon, since they had nary a chair or table to move. The Wharf Cinema Center closed early on Thursday night.

Bird Man Brian Bodka reported that he and others had to chop down tree limbs over the aviaries where the cockatoos are housed after work, so the cages would not be smashed. Some were harmed in a previous storm. The winged creatures – who Bodka says have a high IQ – took the storm in stride and never put up a fuss like they do when earthquakes are getting ready to shake.

On the Kaanapali Golf Course Saturday morning, a lot of limbs from tall pine trees were on the ground.

Noon, Saturday, Aug. 9 – Time to vote at Lahaina Civic Center.

6 p.m., Saturday – Time to watch election returns on TV with some startling results. Gov. Neil Abercrombie eloquently ends 40 years as a public servant after his defeat. In West Maui, Elle Cochran and Ka’ala Buenconsejo celebrate victories that put them into November election. Four hours into the evening, Colleen Hanabusa is leading U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz by just 11 votes. Voters in a small town in Hawaii Island couldn’t vote because of the devastation. Their vote might decide who will represent us in the U.S. Senate in Washington.

Sad Day at Ulupalakua – A favorite trip is to drive up to the winery to walk on the beautiful grounds. The huge eucalyptus tree in the center was spared, but an astounding 50 miles of fencing was destroyed. A store employee who lives on the ranch with her cowboy husband told Lahaina News that you couldn’t walk 20 feet in the area without seeing a damaged tree.

Quite a week in Kaanapali, Lahaina and Ulupalakua especially. But there were many heroes: hundreds of employees of resorts who kept visitors calm and legions of restaurant workers who performed a miracle, shutting down vast areas of their restaurants and putting them back together just 14 hours later. And, very likely, the scores of workers of Ulupalakua who now are on cleanup.

In Kaanapali, the visitors thank you, the owners thank you, and the columnist thanks you.

Columnist’s Notebook: You can see 34 before and after photos on how Lahaina prepared for the storm and then put everything back together at joysofkaanapali.com. You can Google it.