Earthquakes aren’t the only natural disaster that can
trigger major power failures. Heavy rains and strong winds
from hurricane systems can also knock down power lines.
Hawai‘i’s location in warm Pacific waters makes
it vulnerable to hurricanes and other storm systems. That is
why representatives from the State Civil Defense, State Insurance
Commissioner’s Office, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA), Hawai‘i State Department of Defense,
and other public organizations and private companies gathered
in late September at an informational workshop open to the
Many experts at the workshop agreed that since Hawai‘i
hasn’t had a major hurricane since Iniki in 1992, it
is just a matter of time before another hurricane hits the
islands. Iniki was a category three hurricane, with winds up
to 130 miles per hour. Kauai felt the brunt of the storm and
suffered the most damage, as it also did during hurricane Iwa,
which hit 10 years earlier.
Most in Hawai‘i don’t feel a threat and think that
only Kauai gets hit, but that’s not true,” said
Jim Weyman, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane
Center. “All the islands are at equal risk.”
Hurricane season in Hawai‘i begins June 1 and lasts through
Nov. 30 each year. This is when a hurricane is most likely
to develop near Hawai‘i, although NOAA reminds people
that it is possible for one to form at any time of the year.
And as KGMB-TV weather anchor Guy Hagi has been reminding viewers,
an el-nino weather pattern, such as the one developing now
in the Central Pacific, often means a longer hurricane season.
On average, the Central Pacific region sees five storm systems
and about one hurricane each year, according to NOAA. Hurricanes
generally begin as a tropical depression and strengthen to
become tropical storms. Once the winds reach 74 miles per hour,
the storm becomes a category one hurricane. Each category indicates
a significant increase in wind speed, with the category five
rating, the highest, going to a storm with winds of 155 mph
These winds are strong enough to rip houses right off of their
foundations and knock over trees, said Weyman, who added that
although a category five hurricane has never been recorded
in Hawai‘i, three were tracked in the Central Pacific
region in 1994.
If a hurricane does form near Hawai‘i, the State Civil
Defense Agency will issue alerts keeping everyone up to date
on the path of the storm. A Civil Defense storm “watch” means
that the hurricane or other big storm will possibly reach the
islands within 36 hours. If the storm is expected within 24
hours, a “warning” is issued.
People advised by Civil Defense to evacuate their homes should
head for a shelter, usually a gymnasium or a school cafeteria.
The list of hurricane shelters can be found on the O‘ahu
Civil Defense Agency’s Web site or in the local telephone
book, and includes includes Waikiki Elementary and Kailua High
School, both of which are close to where large numbers of HPU
Experts at the workshops strongly encouraged Hawai‘i
residents to prepare a supply kit to bring with them to the
shelter. The kit should include water, food, flashlight, radio,
and extra batteries and clothes.
What some people do is, before the food expires, they donate
it to food drives and buy new ones for their kit. It benefits
everyone,” said Weyman.
Vice Director of State Civil Defense Ed Teixeira explained
that the state has been working with the federal government
to get increased funding for disaster relief programs. Hawai‘i
has also made progress in organizing emergency response plans
for city, state, and federal teams during such an event.
Jasmin Rodriguez of the Castle Medical Center marketing department
related natural disasters here to her experience in New York
City during 9/11. She stressed the importance of a clear flow
of communication between government officials and the health
care providers during a disaster. A system for communicating
key information must be in place before an emergency and it
must be available during and after an emergency. This is why
O‘ahu Civil Defense recommends that people not use their
telephones during a disaster except for emergencies.
However, no matter how much a state prepares, its residents
and visitors must be aware of potential storms. Teixeira said: “It
all comes down to the individuals. That’s the core. That’s
the bottom line.”
|For more information on severe weather preparedness,
visit www.kgmb9.com, www.scd.state.hi.us/, www.co.honolulu.hi.us/ocda/index1.htm,