Dodging Hurricanes in Hawaii.
Most of the time, tropical storms affecting the Hawaiian Islands are just annoying—tree branches down, brief power failures, and a lot of rain. But sometimes, those tropical storms grow into hurricanes. In fact, we are between two such storms at this very moment. Hurricane Madeleine has just passed by to the south; Hurricane Lester is approaching and is scheduled to pass to the north of Maui and Oahu tomorrow night.
Hurricanes are a different deal here altogether. We’re particularly vulnerable because—compared to mainland building codes—most single-family homes are pretty flimsy in their construction: 2×4 framing, various exterior sidings, and dry wall inside.
But, in September of 1992, there was Hurricane Iniki. The weather bureau saw it coming and kept everyone well informed. It was a huge storm, but no one was particularly excited because it was projected to pass well south of our island chain.
It did, too . . . south of the Big Island, south of Maui and south of Oahu. But then, inexplicably, Iniki made an almost perfect 90-degree turn to the north and smacked the Island of Kauai head on.
Sustained winds were in excess of 145 miles per hour and nobody really knows how strong the gusts were. According to the head of the county’s Public Works Department, the storm generated 30 years worth of trash during the 90 minutes it took to pass over the island.
Just restoring power was a huge problem. After all, you can’t simply pick up the phone and order 11,000 new utility poles, especially when they have to be delivered 2,500 miles out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
We have friends who rode out the storm huddled in their bathtub covered by the bathroom door. There were thousands of Norfolk pines on the island and most of them had all their branches on one side stripped away, leaving them looking like very tall, skinny green sails.
The final estimate was almost $2 billion in damage—a staggering number considering it was on one small island with a population of just over 50,000 people.
Even today, a quarter of a century later, Kauai cannot forget Hurricane Iniki because there are thousands of wild chickens running loose everywhere, all descendants of chickens that got loose when their flimsy coops were blown every which way by Iniki’s ferocious winds.
We’re all really hoping that Lester passes us by.