We live on the island of Kauai. We live within an island chain. We all support each other. We have flooding and storms frequently. Hurricane Lane has been an entirely different kind of “animal”. We were all warned in advance that Lane was coming to town. This time everyone took it very seriously. The laid back lifestyle quickly became a little buttoned up.
Hawaii has had only 3 direct Hurricane hits since storms have been recorded – Hurricane Dot 1959, Hurricane Iwa 1982 and Hurricane Iniki 1992. Iniki (meaning strong piercing wind) was the most powerful hurricane to ever strike the state of Hawaii and made landfall on my home island of Kauai.
On September 11, 1992, Iniki struck Kauai with winds of 145mph and reached a Category 4. This intense storm had recorded gusts of up to 227 mph. Hurricane Iniki’s high winds caused extensive damage in Kauai. 1,421 houses were destroyed, and 63 were lost from the storm surge and wave action. A total of 5,152 homes were severely damaged and 7,178 received minor damage. Iniki’s high winds also downed 26.5% of the island’s transmission poles, 37% of its distribution poles, and 35% of its 800 miles of its distribution wire system. The entire island lacked electricity and television service for an extended period of time. Electric companies restored only 20% of the island’s power service within four weeks of Iniki, while other areas were without power for three to four months. Also affected by the storm was the agricultural sector. Hurricane Iniki was the costliest hurricane to strike the state of Hawaiicausing $3.1 billion in damage and was responsible for six deaths.
When I went “to town” this past week and saw Kapuna (senior citizens) stocking up on hurricane supplies, I knew it was a very serious situation. Everyone was on edge for over a week anticipating Hurricane Lane. Lane was one of the most unpredictable storms and definitely the slowest. The anxiety and preparation from this slow mover was one of the most challenging events that I recall.
I am not a newbie to hurricanes. I spent 7 years living in Florida and have been through quite a few hurricane and tropical storms. Hurricane Lane was quite different. I have been trying to find ways to explain it. So many wonderful friends reached out with their support and prayers. We were so grateful. I heard from my friends in Florida and Texas. Each of them shared their concern and confidently reminded me of how we all had been through it before. They also reassured me that it would come and go. I just didn’t have the reassurance I needed.
I have decided that preparing for a storm on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is considerably different from preparing and waiting on the mainland. Here are a few reasons why:
1. We live on an island. When you live on the mainland you have an “option” to drive away from the storm (even last minute if you get cold feet). We don’t have an escape route. Going north 5-8 hours and checking into a resort isn’t an option for us. Did I mention our main highways around the island are only 61 miles long?
2. There are only a handful of grocery stores on the island. We have a very small Walmart, Kmart (closing), amazing Costco and that’s about it. When supplies are gone, they are gone.
3. Many stores on Kauai only receive barge shipments a couple times a week. When the harbors close (which they did) they don’t receive supplies.
4. The stores were out of water on Monday. The local merchants were very fortunate to receive a large barge delivery on Monday night that allowed us one last opportunity to grasp the supplies we need.
5. Helicopters couldn’t drop water and supplies if the winds were over 40 mph and National Guard caravans could not drive supplies to us from other states or regions (we are on an island). Unfortunately, the helicopter air situation did occur on the island of Maui. Three brush fires broke out spreading through the dry west side. The winds were so strong on Maui that helicopters could not be dispatched to drop water. As a result there were 2,330 acres scorched, 7 homes destroyed, 22 homes damaged and 30 cars burnt. Lahaina town was spared by the fire damage within a few blocks.
6. People on our island survived Iniki and the hurricane track did somewhat resemble the same path as much as the news media wanted to portray that it did not. The tension was quite high for a “hang loose” community lifestyle.
7. There are quite a few people that telecommute for work (since we are on an island). My company’s Hawaiian office is based in Honolulu. The teams that I manage are on Maui. If lines of communication had gone down I was not going to be available to make crucial decisions about my team, business and business hours. Since the storm moved so slowly, there were many sleepless nights.
8. This is one of the first times you really recognize you are “on an island” floating in the sea and it is the tropics. The humidity was something that I cannot quite explain. If you haven’t had island fever – you kinda get it right away. If you don’t have island fever in the beginning you get it at the end. The waiting is the worst and even when you think it is gone – this thing is still lingering.
Overall, we were very fortunate not to have damage on Kauai. I feel completely relieved and grateful that we were spared from what could have been. Our neighbors on the Big Island however had significant flooding and torrential downpours that dropped more that four feet of water. It was the third highest storm total of rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the United States since 1950. Maui also sustained damage from heavy rains and the raging brush fires. The flooding and mudslides on these islands are significant. The Big Island has been given one more burden after struggling with volcanic devastation over the last few months. As a resident of Hawaii we are all so grateful as things could have been so much worse. Please continue your thoughts, prayers and positivity as our many residents work together to bring our islands back to normal. We look forward to welcoming you as our guests and sharing our aloha! Mahalo to you.
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