Often when there are storms on the islands, especially on Kauai, we end up getting stuck somewhere (with our friends, family, roommates, boyfriends getting stuck somewhere else). There are just not that many options on an island whose main highway is one lane in each direction – especially when the few bipasses are also being shut down. This past storm,. which lasted a good part of two weeks (with 47 inches of rainfall in one week), had at any given time 5-10 sections of the highway blocked off by mudslides, fallen trees, flooding. Parts of the highway caved in certain areas and detours were set up that, if you could get through, added a good chunk of time to the drive. A friend trying to make it home told me the water went up to the roof of her car; luckily that was pooling water. As the rule goes, it only takes 18 inches to lift your car or SUV (6″ of rushing water can knock over a man). Suffice to say, some trying to pass at river crossings with fast moving water didn’t fair so well*: at least one truck didn’t make it, and a few people were swept out to sea (everyone was saved except a Sunnyvale, CA woman hiking the NaPali and trying to cross the river mouth at Hanakapiai stream).
Locals on Kauai are, for the most part, used to dealing with the elements and the musical chair risk of venturing out right before or during the storm. The advantage for those living here is if you do get stuck, there’s usually someone you know in the quadrant you find yourself whose house you can crash at. For tourists, especially those visiting during a sold-out spring break, you get to sleep in your car. Red Cross and churches do open shelters, but most are “day” shelters and have no accommodations for overnight guests.
What I find surprising is how many businesses managed to stay open during these storms. What most people don’t realize is that locals take a lot of risk by going to work. Not only the dangers on the road (some watermen manage to cross rivers via paddleboard to get there) but they’re often left to contend with new road closures that trap them in while they’re working. Many times their own home is flooding and they aren’t able to get back to help divert water and set up sand bags. Roy Yamaguchi’s The Tavern restaurant in Princeville had the same crew who kept the restaurant running for days, because people on the next shift weren’t able to get there, and most couldn’t go home anyway (hopefully the tourists knew enough to tip them well!).
One positive is that many people who live in hurricane/tsunami zones stock up on supplies; but those with large families and/or got lazy and pillaged the stash since the last emergency inevitably participate in the panic buys. It’s like shopping at the grocery store when you are hungry… but then you cube it. Many who lived in areas previously hit by storm/hurricane situations, stranded for weeks, with no supplies getting in, well, they haven’t quite recovered from the trauma of not having any toilet paper – so besides bottled water that’s often one of the first things to go. There are only a few grocery store options on the North Shore Kauai, and those that were open were decently rampaged with no way for trucks to replenish supplies.
It gets complicated trying to find the most up-to-date information regarding conditions and road closures. Kauai.gov is sometimes on it, and sometimes it’s a whole day before they post a new press release. The Coconut Wireless has evolved to include radio (kudos KONG FM), cell, blogs, Facebook…. Most trying to get in or out of Hanalei call or check the USGS website for the Hanalei River gage height – six feet (depending on the tide) usually shuts down the Hanalei Bridge. Other times it’s more efficient to call one of the businesses in town. When the power and cell phones cut out (AT&T living up to their dysfunctional rep) details travel the old fashioned way – word of mouth. One KHON2.com headline summed it up: “Hawaii Weather Likely for the Record Books”. So with waterspouts churning into full-fledged tornados; baseball-sized hail falling from the sky; lightning (and thunder) in a place that is known for not having much of either – some awesome picts from across the islands managed to make their way around. We put some of the best together: Hawai’i Storm March 2012 slideshow. We tried to credit everyone, but somes sources were unknown since they get reposted without proper credits. Captions wouldn’t show up on the slideshow itself, so they’re included in the gallery link (click the “Continue Reading/Photo Credits” tab below and then the individual pictures to access). If anyone doesn’t want their photo included just let us know, we’ll remove it ASAP.
This post is dedicated to those who ventured out to get the picts. As well as the locals, emergency crews, rescue crews, utility crews, road crews, etc. who were so quick to deal with dangerous storm conditions and help to open roads and return user’s power. Mahalo! Sansan Sheng, RIP.
* Flooding is the #1 storm-related killer—not tornadoes, not severe thunderstorms, not winter storms. It ranks only behind heat waves in number of casualties for all weather events. Flooding also takes many different forms, from river flooding to flash flooding to snowmelt flooding. It occurs in any month of the year, any time of day. It is a threat in almost any place. More than half of all flood-related deaths are drownings that result from vehicles caught in flood waters and then swept downstream. Eighty percent of all flood deaths occur when people drive into flooded roadways or simply walk through moving water. Many of these drownings are preventable if people do not drive or walk into flooded roads, sidewalks, etc. People often underestimate the force of water.