It’s Hurricane Season in Hawaii.
At the moment, we’re all keeping an eye on a hurricane out there in the Central Pacific. It’s been named Guillermo and is, at the moment, a Category 2 storm, meaning it has maximum sustained winds of 105 miles per hour. As of midnight EST on Friday, it’s about 1300 miles east of us. Guillermo is headed right at us but, according to the weather people, it will weaken to a tropical storm and probably pass below the Hawaiian chain.
That would be nice.
Hurricanes are a serious potential problem for us in Hawaii. For one thing, there’s no place to go to get away from them. We’re at least five hours by jet from anywhere and besides, the planes will all be full of tourists.
And there’s another problem: our houses are pretty flimsy compared to mainland standards. Most have 2×4 framing and they either sit on a concrete pad or are up on posts (“post and pier”). Typically, exterior walls are sheets of 3/4-inch plywood made to look like clapboards or some other kind of better quality siding.
There are plenty of houses more substantially constructed, of course … with cinder blocks or even bricks … but most are simple frame construction. That’s all we’ve ever needed in this normally benign climate.
Fortunately, most of the tropical cyclones, as the meteorologists call our hurricanes, pass to the south of the Hawaiian Islands and have usually weakened by the time they get this far west anyway.
But not always. Twice in the 53 years I’ve lived here, ferocious storms have reached us. There was Hurricane Iwa in 1982 and Iniki ten years later. Both storms just brushed Oahu where most of the population lives, but they each struck the island of Kauai head on.
Iniki was worse than Iwa. The head of Kauai’s Public Works Department told me that Iniki generated 30 years worth of trash in the 90 minutes it took to pass over that island—tree limbs, shingles, roofs, entire houses—anything that wasn’t really nailed down. Oh . . . and chickens. Typically flimsy chicken coops were blown to hell and gone and the birds themselves were scattered all over the island. Today, thanks to Iniki, there are literally many thousands of chickens running wild all over Kauai.
Anyway, getting back to Guillermo, we’ve stocked up on water and batteries and canned food. We have a portable generator which I’ll make sure will fire up if we need it. All of those preparations will most likely be for naught, of course … but you never know. The storm will probably weaken, and pass south of us—the only effects being gusty winds and some heavy rain.
That would be nice.