Flash floods are caused by heavy rainfall, combined with a surface runoff that rages across rivers, streams, and gullies. In Maui, where the mountains are high and the streams run deep, flash floods happen often, especially along the Road to Hana. The floods can occur without much notice (hence the term ‘flash’) in a stream, regardless of whether it was dry or wet earlier.
As the rain falls on cliff-tops and mountains, there is a high chance that the water will run down to the roads beyond, thus also proving dangerous for the oncoming cars and pedestrians. Hikers should be very careful when attempting to cross streams and pay attention to changing conditions at waterfalls.
Another matter to consider is the possible mud and rockslides. As the water gushes down, it may take debris along with it, thereby blocking the roads, and endangering all that comes in its way. In times of flash floods, there is also the danger of submerged power lines which may not be visible. Thus it is imperative that one stays on higher ground, and does not intend to cross the flooded stream.
We have often seen in movies; people swimming on the beach, and suddenly a shark lurks nearby, its fin above the surface of the water, ready to lash its teeth into the oncoming prey. The danger for shark attacks is small and all of our snorkeling/diving tours go to areas without these sharks.
The types of Jaws shark attacks we imagine aren’t exactly what happens at Maui (thank God). Shark attacks are very improbable, with a very low record of fatalities. However, the threat always persists for people who dare to venture far off from the reef. The farther you get, the lesser the chance is for the lifeguard to keep an eye on you, and immediately spring to action in case of any danger.
Another situation of a possible shark attack is while venturing into areas with murky water, especially after heavy rainfall. Murky waters prove enticing for the little fish, which in turn attracts the sharks. As the sharks then arrive looking for their food (a fish or a turtle, for instance), they can take an exploratory bite when unsure of what the prey might be.
Thus areas in Maui usually have signs posted to discourage people from wandering too far off from the shore or going into the waters during a dangerous time. There is often a 7 am to 7 pm policy suggested by locals for those who wish to go for a swim. Swim close to shore, especially in South Kihei.
Waves and Shore-breaks
Another danger in Maui is the power of the surf. The high waves and tides prove unpredictable for visitors as they can never foresee when a high wave is about to come. This is why it is usually suggested to never turn your back to the ocean.
Shore breaks are strong enough to result in spinal injuries, these waves can also prove fatal for those who are not careful. The wave can catch you in times when you least expect it. Even when you are preparing to come out of the water, picking up something, or adjusting your slippers. In no time, a wave could arrive, and knock you off your feet, taking you along with it. Be especially careful in areas that have powerful undercurrents, these undercurrents are surprisingly fast and can take you out to sea if you’re not being aware.
The Mighty Cliffs
As much as the cliffs of Maui appear high and mighty, there are just too many of them, and not all of them are hiking-friendly. There are areas that remain unmarked, and thus are difficult to navigate. Or hiking trails, which have been gushed away with the heavy downpour and now appear eradicated. In such circumstances, it becomes very difficult for the visitors to find their way back to their group, and very easy for them to fall into danger.
Many cliffs also remain unguarded by railings, which means any wrong turn of the car or a slight stumble by the pedestrian could prove fatal. Around the village of Kahakuloa for example, the road is narrow, winding, and one-way, without any protective railings during some stretches. In the unfortunate scenario where two cars arrive in the opposite direction, on a one-way section, one must back completely and find a very tight space to move into.
It is true that Maui has some of the most beautiful sights of nature in the world. However, it is also true that it has quite a few car accidents. This is due to distracted drivers. As Google Maps make their way to everyone’s phones, or the need to text arises, attention diverts from the road into the mobile phone – and there arises the possibility of an accident. More importantly, the attention of the drivers if often pulled by the scenic surrounding beauty.
Along the northern coast of West Maui, the Kahekili Highway often referred to as the Death Highway of Maui, is one such track which is a top candidate for the dangers of distracted driving. Displaying beautiful surrounding sights, the narrow but two-way highway is dangerous for all travelers.
As you now become aware of the dangers lurking in Maui, it is necessary to take precautions. Abiding by even some of these would ensure a safe and joyous journey for you.
- Be wary of the signs of a flash flood: a sudden rise in water level, rumbling of the earth, or a sudden gust of wind over a waterfall.
- Do not turn away from the ocean.
- Swim cautiously; with the presence of guards, and never alone.
- Do not wander away from marked trails, or into areas that are closed.
- When driving, keep your phone aside and eyes on the road.
- Research beforehand about dangerous highways, or get a guide.
Maui is a place that exposes nature in all its raw glory. It is important to remember that it is not a theme park or a stroll through a controlled environment. There are powerful natural forces at work, which always need to be considered. However, the beauty of Maui surpasses many other places, making it a must-visit (after necessary precautions of course!).