Minnesotans on Maui as deadly wildfires rip through island
A north metro family is fortunate to be safe as they wait to fly home from Hawaii as rescue crews continue to search for more people on the island of Maui.
Thursday night, Hawaiian officials gave a grim update on the effort to combat wildfires and rescue people in need. So far, more than a thousand buildings have been destroyed and more than 50 people have been killed.
Earlier this week, hurricane winds strengthened multiple wildfires that started following dry conditions on the island. Officials say most of the town of Lahaina is destroyed — the exact cause of the fires is still unknown.
“To be on an island where you can’t do anything, you have no control of anything, [it’s] frustrating and we’re scared at times,” Tiffany Skogquist, who with family is vacationing on Maui from Minnesota, said.
What was supposed to be a 50-year anniversary celebration, turned into chaos for the north metro family.
While staying at a resort five miles north of Lahaina, the family woke up Tuesday morning to no power so they decided to go to lunch outside of the resort. But on their way back, on the only road to get there, they were met by authorities who had closed the road.
Skogquist says they haven’t been back since — only left with the clothes on their back and rental vans to sleep in for at least one night.
“We don’t know when, if and when we’ll ever see our belongings again, which, you know, at the end of the day, we’re here safe, and we’re together, and we get to go home to our homes,” Skogquist said while feeling fortunate and trying to stay positive.
As they were trying to get around the island to find new accommodations, at times there were stopped in traffic with multiple smoke plums in the air and the fear of the unknown sinking in.
“People were running with backpacks and no shoes and were trying to hitchhike [to] get out of there,” Skogquist said, adding: “It was scary and not knowing the terrain, the roadways, we didn’t know where to go if we’d be stuck.”
They’ve since found a new resort to stay in as they wait for their flight home this weekend. As for their belongings, Skogquist has heard staff from their original resort may be allowed back soon. At that point, staff may pack people’s stuff and ship them to the owners.
“It’s hard to believe. Really hard to believe that’s what our dream trip turned into,” she said.
Other Minnesotans on Maui returned home before running into any trouble.
The Nicholsons honeymooned there and returned to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) Thursday morning. While they were OK, they explained the eerie sights they saw before leaving.
“It was a spooky feeling being in an airport with lots of people, just sitting there and seeing the smoke… It’s kind of a trapped feeling. We were happy to leave but also sad for the people who, that was their home,” Olivia Nicholson told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Happy to be home, the couple can’t help but feel terrible for those that call Maui home.
“It’s such a beautiful place, it was our first time there, and just to see the natural landscape destroyed, to see people’s homes destroyed, it’s very scary, very sad,” Nicholson said.
Find out how to help those impacted by the Maui wildfires here.