Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Hurricane Dora’s High Winds Fuel Wildfires in Hawaii

by nytime
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Wildfires burning across parts of Hawaii early Wednesday damaged buildings and prompted evacuations and road closures. The fires were driven in part by high winds from Hurricane Dora, which was moving west across the Pacific hundreds of miles south of the islands.

On the western side of the island of Maui, residents fled from the flames and smoke by swimming into the ocean, where they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Maui County officials said.

Winds up to 45 miles per hour, with gusts of 60 m.p.h., were possible, said the National Weather Service, which warned residents on social media to secure property and expect outages and difficult travel.

Dora, a Category 4 storm, was more than 700 miles south of Honolulu late Tuesday and was not expected to make landfall in Hawaii.

But winds from the hurricane prompted evacuations on Hawaii’s Big Island on Tuesday, as crews battled a wildfire along a highway. Those winds also contributed to several wildfires on the island of Maui, including one that was about 1,000 acres by Tuesday afternoon, the Maui County Emergency Management Agency said.

A firefighter on Maui was hospitalized with smoke inhalation but was in stable condition. There were no other immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The fires in Hawaii and Maui Counties had already burned hundreds of acres by Tuesday, Sylvia Luke, Hawaii’s acting governor, said in an emergency proclamation that activated the National Guard.

In Maui County there were more than 14,000 power outages, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages across the United States.

The Weather Service said that a red flag warning — indicating that critical fire conditions were occurring or would be shortly — was in effect for some areas of the Hawaiian islands.

Winds in Hawaii are expected to diminish on Wednesday as a high-pressure system to the north weakens and Dora moves west away from the islands, the Weather Service said.

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