Thu, 28 Sep 2023

HONOLULU, 9th August, 2023 (WAM) -- Several Hawaii communities were forced to evacuate from wildfires that destroyed at least two homes as of Tuesday as a dry season mixed with strong wind gusts made for dangerous fire conditions, reported the Associated Press (AP).

The National Weather Service said Hurricane Dora, which was passing to the south of the island chain at a safe distance of 500 miles (805 kilometers), was only partly to blame for gusts above 60 mph (97 kph) that toppled power lines, rattled homes and grounded firefighting helicopters.

"It's kind of because of Hurricane Dora, but it's not a direct result," said Jeff Powell, a meteorologist in Honolulu. "It's just a peripheral result."

Hawaii was sandwiched between high pressure to the north and a low pressure system associated with Dora, he said, noting how it was sunny and very dry.

The dryness and the gusts "make a dangerous fire situation so that fires that do exist can spread out of control very rapidly," Powell said.

Maui and the Big Island were contending with wildfires. One Maui fire in Lahaina was contained, but firefighters were still dealing with another in the Kula area. Two homes were destroyed in a fire that engulfed about 1,100 acres (1.72 square miles), Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said. About 80 people were evacuated from 40 homes, he said.

"We're trying to protect homes in the community," Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said of evacuating about 400 homes in four communities in the northern part of the island. As of Tuesday, the roof of one house caught on fire, he said.

Because of the wind gusts, helicopters aren't able to dump water on the fires from the sky - or gauge more precise fire sizes, Roth said.

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