It's been quiet today. At ground level in Waiakoa, there is just enough breeze to jiggle leaves. Up 100 feet or more, branches of jacaranda kupuna sway against the blue sky. Quite a change from the last few weeks.
Maybe it was just a perception, but it seems there were days on end when the weather huffed and puffed, mostly puffed. The wind was most prevalent in areas that almost always have wind - Pukalani, around the Central Maui Landfill and any place downwind that is around the 1,200-foot level elevation.
The most consistent ground-level wind springs up in the afternoon between Kahului and Kihei. It's a matter of flat, unobstructed land heating up. Just like a chimney after the fire gets going, the heat heads up and draws in air cooled by the ocean. Those winds seem to concentrate at Maalaea, a real rocks-in-the-pockets place.
Another spot that is traditionally windy is the Olowalu-Ukumehame stretch of coastline. Sometimes the wind seems strong enough to blow a bicycle, motorcycle or light car off the road. It is often strong enough to blow kayaks and windsurf rigs out into the channel.
The wind loves the summit of Haleakala. Winds as beefy as Category One hurricanes are common. During stormy weather, the wind can reach the 75-100 mph range.
One reason Maui residents tend to be complacent about hurricanes is history. The last cyclonic storm to hit Maui was reported by a missionary in 1854. Hurricane is a relatively new appellation for whirling winds. Not so, water spouts. These columns of water - a kind of small tornado - aren't as common as dust devils, but they do little damage so don't warrant much news attention.
One notable water spout was spotted off Pauwela in 1920. The wind-born column was said to be 1,000 feet high. Undoubtedly, that was one person's estimate and everyone knows how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be.
Dust devils are usually seen in the fields right after being plowed and before they are planted. Most of the time, they are harmless. In the late 1970s, a dust devil proved to be a bit stronger than the usual baby tornado. It danced across upper Pukalani Terrace and had enough muscle to rip the roof off a carport.
A so-called twister wandered between Spreckelsville and Puunene in 1956. A 1973 whirlwind was blamed for four injuries in Kihei.
The wind gets confused while slipping over uneven topography. In gulch-riddled lower Waiakoa, it's possible to see trees bowing toward Kihei, other trees nodding toward Makawao and still others kowtowing to Haleakala. All at the same time.
Yesterday, a light kona wind blew down Old Haleakala Highway in Pukalani. Little more than a breeze, the wind had a graceful effect on an old mango tree and a mock orange hedge.
The top of the mango kupuna danced this way and that. The flexible upper branches resisted the wind, hauling leaves back to their original position. And then back again. It took little imagination to see a troupe of minuscule hula dancers perched on those tiny branches.
The hedge was trimmed neatly into a square-topped fence. The wind had no effect on the tightly packed snarl of stems and leaves. There were two spots that were thin. There, the wind made the hedge heave up and down despite its neighbors' calm demeanor.
It seemed during July, August and September, winds were playful on the face of Haleakala. Maybe it was due to riding Baby. I took possession of her in the middle of July. She's a lightweight motorcycle - about 340 pounds with a full tank of gasoline. She is also clad in up-to-date, all-encompassing plastic panels. The plastic panels make effective sails.
'A'ole pilikia as long as the wind is steady, which is never. Ride through a cut and get blown from right to left or left to right. Baby will move from one side of the lane to the other. Nothing dangerous, just one more weather effect motorcyclists must keep in mind.
Down Haleakala below Pukalani, the wind always flexes its muscles. Lean into it, no matter which direction it blows. Adding 55 mph forward with 45 mph sideways produces buffeting. Perched upright, a rider is faced with working through a kind of mosh pit. Crouching behind Baby's miniscule windscreen cut down the wiggling.
Some years back, an experienced rider from Illinois was offered the loan of a bike. My sister demurred. "Too windy," she said. Hmmm.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His email address is email@example.com.