Kaua’i needs shelter from the storms

When the split-personality weather disturbance known as Daniel (it went from tropical storm to hurricane and back) was advancing on Hawai’i last month, the job Kaua’i did getting ready for the worst was as good as or better than all the other islands.

But while Kaua’i generally can—and should—take pride in its Daniel preparations and apparent readiness for future storm watches, it must remember that there isn’t enough shelter space to go around if a really big weather disaster sweeps ashore.

The head of civil defense for Kaua’i County presented the sobering facts this week: There are 14 official shelters on the island offering combined space for 19,343 people. There are about 55,000 regular residents and between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors much of the time.

Doing the math in round numbers, that’s 75,000 -19,000=56,000. In other words, if Kaua’i never saw another tourist, it would still be hard-pressed to squeeze its resident into a shelter.

Tourism isn’t going away. Neither is the inevitable next storm, and the one after, and the one after. While everyone found a place—at home, with friends or relatives, or in shelters—to ride out Hurricane Iniki’s savagery in 1992, the island should start shrinking the disparity between official hideouts and the number of people in harm’s way.

Those efforts are underway. The Kaua’i War Memorial Convention Hall is readied to serve as a shelter, providing room for 2,000 people. More storm-resistant structures are needed, however, to help ensure the safety of eveyone.

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