Wild hurricanes I have known

I’ve weathered four. My husband and I escaped the ravages of Typhoon Jean, dodging caribou and ballistic teak logs the size of a Kauai bus, shooting by us in a Philippine Airline jet while taking off from a beach in Aparri, a primitive village in the province of Cagayan, Luzon — one bar, one outdoor movie, one hotel — on the banks of the South China Sea. Aparri survived. Today it’s a first class municipality.

We made the fastest flight — ever — back to Manila that day. Jean was the biggest typhoon of the season.

A typhoon is a hurricane that swirls and whirls and rips around in another neighborhood.

The Aparri memory is a cute story I tell often.

But hurricanes are not cute. No one can ever say “been there, done that” or “seen one seen ’em all.” Platitudes don’t apply. Each storm’s different. They’ve personalities all their own, and always a very human side.

In 1970, we were in Mississippi a year after Hurricane Camille demolished Gulfport and were amazed at the mess. A tug boat still balanced on its keel in the middle of a forest. It looked as though it’d just been planted. Along millionaire’s row, all a two-story mansion had to show for itself were water pipes standing upright indicating bathrooms on a vanished second floor.

Hurricane Iwa — Nov. 24, 1982 — sent our beloved boat, Warpath in Kukuiula Harbor, over the top of a swimming pool and broke her back. She was headed for safe port in the red barn across the street. We’d built the barn for $900. All by myself I tarpapered the roof. Not a corner lifted. On Kauai’s millionaire’s row, it looked as though a war had gone through.

I’d spent a terrifying night in the barn with my horses in the lava rock house up the Alexander Dam Road. All I was was the howl of that wind.

Bill — who was needed at the power plant in Wainiha — and I, coming home that night, had a most incredible surprise in store for us. On the North Shore at Tahiti Nui, Louise Marston prepared — on the beach — a Thanksgiving dinner to end all Thanksgiving dinners — the works — to those who could find their way to her open door. A generous, marvelous, wonderful woman, I miss her. We sat at a savory table with locals, hippies, surfers, tourists from everywhere, survivors and indulged. I’ve never felt so thankful. I didn’t say grace, but I thought it.

Back home, we’d just put the roof on our new house. Not a shingle lifted.

Sept. 11, 1992, Iniki – the strongest storm to hit Hawaii-barreled through. I was alone. I spent the night here. Three horses locked in stalls. Me and the dogs and cats hunkered down in my old Buick. I had carrots for the horses, nibbles for the dog and cats and a bottle of wine for me. Before the night was over, the horses were eating dog food while the dogs and cats munched carrots. I didn’t share the wine.

My experienced advice during hurricane season: Be prepared.


Bettejo Dux is a resident of Kalaheo.


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