Kauaians in Texas fled Rita

Kauaians living in Texas saw their properties take direct hits from Hurricane Rita, but were out of that part of the state when the powerful storm rolled through, The Garden Island has learned.

Nicholas “Nick” and Dusti Chu, he a graduate of Kapa’a High School now living in Beaumont, Texas, had the foresight and ability to get out of Rita’s way, accepting an invitation from another former Kauaian, Roland T. Nitta, Nicholas Chu’s cousin who was born and raised in Kekaha, to stay at the Nittas’ place in Houston, which was spared the brunt of Rita.

When the Chus returned to their home, they found massive damage. “We took a direct hit,” Nicholas Chu said of both their home in Beaumont and at a ranch in China, Texas that is his wife’s third-generation home.

At the Beaumont home, many large trees were victims of the storm, with 10 to 15 left standing where there had been dozens, he said. The front porch of the home was ripped off, as were carport roofs. A motor home was damaged, and they were without power, as were residents in four counties around their place.

At the ranch, in China, Texas, stable and equipment-barn roofs blew off, but that was the extent of the serious damage. Farm animals, livestock and horses were trucked out of the storm’s way, he said.

According to Janice Bond, a Lihu’e resident and a high school classmate of Chu’s, Chu is disabled, and uses a wheelchair to get around.

Nitta was on Kaua’i during Hurricane ‘Iwa in 1982, and left Kaua’i in 1989. He offered the Chus shelter, and gave them provisions including ice, water and a chain saw. The Chus did have a generator for the time they were without power.

The weather was extremely hot after the storm, and Nitta worried about his cousin’s health if he were without airconditioning, Nitta said.

As of late last month, “they were using a generator to keep the refrigerator on line, and also to run the air conditioning unit to keep Nick cool. The weather here is hot, hot, and hot,” Nitta said.

“We are keeping an eye on them, and making sure that they get what they need.”

After rendering aid to special-needs children in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina rumbled through, Linda Nu-land-Ames of Lawa’i is back on Kaua’i, still in awe of the response from Kauaians to her call for clothing, materials and supplies.

“In all, 76 boxes arrived at my office, 50 before I left for Louisiana. The Gulf states were in chaos when I arrived, and communication systems worked sporadically,” she said.

“Our shelter never received a single dollar, nor one can of food from official channels. We did receive one call from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), but no one could figure out who was in charge of our district,” Nuland-Ames said.

“I kid you not.

“The donated items and money that I brought with me were all we had for the first families who arrived. And because of the generosity of the people of Kaua’i, we had enough,” she said.

“In time, the camp-shelter touched the hearts of many people across the United States, and we now have a warehouse full of supplies to distribute, and enough money to purchase anything that hasn’t been donated.

“I’m back on Kaua’i, working on the distribution part of the project by phone and e-mail. But my heart is still in Mississippi, (where there are) 250,000 unemployed, hundreds of thousands without long-term housing,” she continued.

“It will be a long, long time before we truly understand the full impact of the disaster. Fortunately, for some people, there was a peaceful place in northern Mississippi where parents could gather their thoughts and make their plans while their children played in the park,” she said.

“I want to thank everyone who participated in making the family special-needs shelter a reality.”

Within 48 hours of her arrival in Pontotoc County, she and friend Peg Pickering “trans-formed a Boy Scout camp into a wheelchair-accessible family shelter, with private cabins, a commercial kitchen providing hot meals that met a variety of medical needs, and medical and social services on call,” she reported.

“And three days later, we opened an on-site school for special-needs children,” gathering national interest in the process.

“Although 85 percent of us face a period of long-term disability during our lifetimes, management of emergency relief had not changed to meet this reality.”

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