LIHU’E — To those of you who stocked up on bottled water, Spam, saimin,
charcoal, propane and batteries, and bought plywood to board up your windows,
there is good news other than the right turn Tropical Storm Daniel took away
from the island last week.
You’re ready for the next storm. And there will
be one. Everyone from the National Weather Service down to the hourly worker
knows it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when,” the next threatening weather
system strolls into Hawaiian waters.
June through November are hurricane
months in the Pacific, so there are four more months to remain on guard. And
forecasters are predicting more frequent storms than normal this hurricane
Mayor Maryanne Kusaka expressed relief that Daniel decided not to
visit Kaua’i. She also applauded preparations for the storm.
Defense Agency, state agencies, private companies and emergency response
organizations were well-prepared for whatever may have occurred,” she
“For those of you who have stocked up on supplies in the past week,
please keep them stashed away,” Kusaka continued. “There are still four months
left in hurricane season, and you never know when they’ll be
Emergency preparedness handbooks are available at the county
public information office in the Lihu’e Civic Center. Similar information is in
the telephone book on page 53.
Even before Daniel was a memory for most
people on the island, Mark Marshall, the county’s new civil defense
administrator, was tracking Tropical Storm Fabio, which last week was forming
near the coast of California.
While he appreciated the seriousness with
which the people of Kaua’i prepared for the Daniel, another potential disaster
caught his eye when he flew over the island with the Civil Air Patrol. He said
he shares a desire of many people to live beachfront, but he was appalled at
the number of beachfront homes.
“The education for me was horrifying, to
learn how much of Kaua’i has homes in the inundation zone,” Marshall
While hurricanes do much physical damage, the greater danger to human
life is from tsunamis (tidal waves). While folks on the Big Island (where he
lived for 20 years before coming here) don’t raise eyebrows when someone
mentions the word “hurricane,” the same seems true when he mentions tsunamis on
Kaua’i people tend to think of tsunamis as Big Island problems, he
said. But if one was generated on the Big Island and headed toward Kaua’i,
people in affected shoreline areas here would have just 20 minutes to
With hasty evacuation leading to clogged coastal highways, there
would be people drowning in their cars if a big tsunami hit, Marshall
In the Pacific Rim, there were 4,000 deaths from tsunamis in the
1990s. And in the last century, 225 people died in Hawai’i tsunamis, compared
to four lives lost last century in Hawai’i hurricanes.
So, Marshall plans
to educate people who live in or are staying in homes or resorts in the
inundation zones (shown on maps on pages 57 to 65 in the Kaua’i telephone book,
and including all of Hanalei town and most of the resorts in the Po’ipu area)
of the inherent risks, and of the potential need to evacuate at literally a
Regarding Tropical Storm Daniel, Marshall said people who
hadn’t been through a hurricane before were preparing for the event as if it
were going to be a big party, visiting the liquor store for
Those who had been through Hurricane ‘Iniki weren’t as
blasé, he added.
There were omens and harbingers as the preparations
continued for Daniel’s scheduled arrival, he recalled. He got lots of telephone
calls from people not asking him what to do, but when the storm would
To their credit, Kaua’i County’s fire, police and public works
departments employees seemed ahead of even Big Island disaster responders in
their preparation, he said.
Public Works, recalling the rash of flat tires
after hurricanes ‘Iwa and ‘Iniki, were asking for metallic sweepers to remove
nails from major thoroughfares.
Amateur radio aficionados, who were the
communications on the island in the immediate wake of ‘Iwa and ‘Iniki, also
“That gave me a good feeling that people were really
prepared for the event,” he said.
Marshall worked on the Big Island as
aquatics program administrator, with 60 lifeguards, 31 beaches and several
public pools under his charge. He also fulfilled Civil Defense roles during
lava flows and other emergencies.
He attended and taught school in North
Carolina and South Carolina, where Atlantic hurricanes are a common phenomenon.
With degrees in marine biology and meteorology, he has a knowledge of weather
—tropical and otherwise.
“So, I know the animal,” he said.
there was good news and bad news when Harry Kim, who recently retired after 30
years as Big Island civil defense administrator — and during that time
developed a sort of “gut feeling” about storms, lava flows and other natural
disasters —called to tell Marshall he had a feeling that Daniel was going to
be bad for Kaua’i.
The good news was that Kim recommended Marshall use the
quiet time before the storm’s anticipated arrival to get organized.
was an excellent drill for us. It was better than any organized drill,” said
Marshall, who noted more time has been spent rewriting procedures than time
spent preparing for Daniel’s arrival.
“This one was real-time, with real
expectations. Fortunately, we had no impact,” he said.
Some of the names
and telephone numbers on the emergency notification list were changed, so it
was good to update that list, he said.
Marshall heard from guests of hotels
and condominiums who said they hadn’t been given disaster information. Civil
Defense alerts the Kaua’i Visitors Bureau and Hawai’i Hotel Association, and
those organizations are supposed to disseminate information to guests.
Apparently, that didn’t happen, he said.
“I was a little alarmed that some
of the smaller hotels and condos didn’t pass on information,” he said. He said
they should “dust off” the emergency plans they’re required to
All in all, though, the people of Kaua’i are ready for this type
of event and take it seriously. That is even while some residents still suffer
from affects of post-traumatic stress disorder left over from ‘Iniki, he
He shares Kaua’i residents’ concerns about storms that head in the
“Those things scare the hell out of me. This
roller-coaster ride called Daniel” was forecast at various times to go south,
go north and roll right over the island, Marshall said.
The good thing
about hurricanes is that they move slowly, usually 20 miles per hour at the
most. The bad thing is that slow movement sometimes tends to increase
complacency in people.
Marshall worries that the complacency will worsen on
the Big Island, as residents figure Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa will push
hurricanes away from the Big Island.
But a six-mile-high storm isn’t
affected much by two-mile high mountains. And the fact that the storm was
forecast to hit the Big Island and then didn’t will only add to Big Islanders’
complacency, he said.
When Daniel was forecast to dump heavy showers on
Kaua’i, potentially triggering flooding, Marshall recommended that plantations
lower reservoir volumes and divert ditches into streams. The recommendation was
acted upon by plantations and other large landowners, resulting in water being
dumped into streams and eventually to the ocean while the island is suffering
When Daniel didn’t bring rain or have any impact
on the island at all except for some high surf, the water was lost by the
plantations and large landowners, he explained.
Marshall said he is
impressed with the way federal, state, county and private officials get along
for the good of the island.
“It makes for a more intimate group,
well-oiled, refined. They know what to do, and they care for each other, help
each other out,” said Marshall.
The same is not the case on the Big Island,
with some private citizens seeing government as an “us-versus-them” scenario.
Even differences between people from the Hilo and Kona sides of the Big Island
made coordination difficult there.
On Kaua’i, he never had to remind the
roughly 40 people at the emergency operations center that they’re there to help
protect lives and property.
“Everybody brought that to the table,”
bringing a sense of “normalcy” to a potentially dangerous situation, he
His job, Marshall said, is to get the best possible information into
the hands of decision-makers, in this case Kusaka.
Other than natural
disasters, Marshall is also concerned about terrorist attacks on the island,
not only through weapons of mass destruction but through biological warfare
agents which could, for example, render the island’s water supply unfit for
Ernie Lau, manager and chief engineer with the county Department
of Water, has been trying to build “firewalls” to prevent contamination of one
drinking water source from contaminating the entire island’s supply, Marshall
Lau has also been working to get emergency generators in hardened
buildings near pumping stations, to ensure a ready flow of drinking water in
the event of power outages or other disasters.
The Navy’s Pacific Missile
Range Facility at Barking Sands has been an advocate for training and in
assisting the county. And large landowners like Gay & Robinson, Amfac Sugar
Kaua’i, and others big and small have been cooperative with use of heavy
equipment, access to land, and other matters which aid Civil Defense, he
His planning for the next disaster includes making the seven fire
stations around the island incident command centers, and having disaster relief
centers set up near the stations. He wants to keep the centers separate from
shelters and mass-feeding areas, so they won’t all get too congested.
enforcement would operate out of the incident command centers, to prevent
looting and perform other tasks, Marshall said.
Coordination needs to
happen where relief efforts are concerned as well, since after ‘Iniki, a huge
pile of useless winter clothes developed. With no need for heavy clothing here,
much of it had to be dumped in the Kekaha landfill.
mistake was cutting telephone poles and wires to get them off the roads. After
the next hurricane, poles and wires should not be cut, but rather pushed to the
sides of roads.
The poles can be replanted, and having intact wires would
mean quicker restoration of telephone and electrical lines and service, he
Storm-proofing of homes, buildings and utility poles after ‘Iniki
will serve the island well in the next disaster, but the aftermath of another
storm will be much different if the major island of O’ahu is impacted along
with Kaua’i, he said.
Kaua’i enjoyed rapid response after ‘Iniki because no
other island was impacted as severely as this one. If O’ahu and Kaua’i are
impacted by the next hurricane, relief and recovery efforts will be
concentrated on the more heavily populated area before coming here, he
TGI staff writer Paul C. Curtis can be reached at 245-3681
(ext. 224) or email@example.com