Hawaii’s Weather is Sublime . . . Until It Isn’t.

Years ago, I worked with a man who was a curator at the  Honolulu Museum of Art. He and his wife had moved here some six months earlier from Minnesota. It was perhaps ten o’clock in the morning and I greeted him casually as we passed on a walkway in one of the museum’s open courtyards.

“How’s it going, Lou?” I said. 

He stopped abruptly and glared at me for several seconds.

“Well, all right, I guess,” he snarled. “Except it appears we’re going to have another one of these goddamn beautiful days!”

Lou and his wife had moved to Honolulu, bag and baggage, from Minnesota and after the excitement of the move and the novelty of the change had worn off, they realized that they missed the change of seasons  . . . really missed them.

It’s raining here on Maui today. We’re used to it now. but the first time it really opened up and poured on us here in “up country” Maui, it was actually shocking. Sitting at my desk, I glanced out the window where I could see a small portion of our garage roof. It was covered by what appeared to be a layer of fog three feet thick.

But it was the rain  . . . thundering down in such quantity and with such force that it vaporized the instant it struck our roof.

Certain areas of these islands get huge quantities of rain. In fact, the summit of Mount Wai’ale’ale on the Island of Kauai has an average annual rainfall of 450 inches. That’s 37 feet, which means Hawaii can claim the title of the Wettest Spot on Earth.

The worst natural disaster ever to hit the Hawaiian Islands occurred in September of 1992.

Hurricane Iniki was passing harmlessly well below our island chain when it abruptly made a 90-degree turn to the north and struck the Island of Kauai with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and gusts as high as 175 mph.

Damage was in the billions of dollars. Telephone service was eventually restored, but phone lines remained strung on palm trees for months. The head of the island’s public works department personally told me that Hurricane Iniki generated 30 years worth of trash in 90 minutes.

To this day, there remains a permanent reminder of Hurricane Iniki on Kauai: the many thousands of wild chickens, seen everywhere on the island, are all descendants of the chickens who escaped when their flimsy back yard coops were blown away.