Entering the whirlwind of hurricane season

The middle of last week we received an e-mail from an extended family member to the effect: How do you prepare for a storm such as the ones predicted? For me, I think I would move to (the writer’s) state. I guess the media had blasted news of our weather watches and worries over a mainland channel.

My husband wrote back politely that our modest home has survived two hurricanes to date – ‘Iwa in 1982, and ‘Iniki in 1992 — even with some difficult damage that occurred during ‘Iniki (roof peeling off, cascades of water through ceilings, some wall shifting and a large puka, or hole, where the main beam of the shattered A-frame next door speared our carport, a juddering pillar of hell, as if tossed by a giant, destructive hand. (Of course, those last weren’t his actual words; however, he got the idea across.)) He ended by saying that there are far more positive reasons for remaining a resident of Hawaii, than negative ones.

Even so, the natives and malihinis, or newcomers, were definitely restless as the weather reports continued to flow toward us. Those of us who survived Hurricane ‘Iniki, and remember the grinding toil and expense, both actual and emotional, of the recovery period, particularly so.

It’s hard for me to describe Sept. 11, 1992, in a passive way. I get involved in frightening memories, even this long after (24 years), and out come the metaphors and descriptively hammered words. And I’m sure I’m not alone.

Hours before I became aware of the questioning e-mail, I’d heard a friend speak of a call from her college son in Hilo, reporting in: The rains had begun. She had a noticeable frown, and I well understood her worry as Hurricane Madeline came in for landing.

It was well before the news showed us clips of the Hilo flooding and weather maps that assured that the worst electric activity within the center was to the east of the deluge and winds hitting Hawaii island. A short time after this weather reminder while attending to business in Kapaa town, I was told by a young clerk that she’d be out of there if a hurricane came, either up to the Homesteads area where she’d offer refuge to a friend living too close to sea level, or maybe they’d both take up the offer of another friend and head for Kalaheo to wait out the storm together, if it came.

There’s something to be said for numbers during emergencies–the communal bolstering (as in “Together we stand; divided, we fall.”); the pooling of resources, skills and creative ideas, as well as actual physical strength, if needed; and the first release of tension and frustration to well-attuned, listening ears. As in bomb shelters and trenches during old-style war. As in refugee camps.

While my husband and I stayed within our home during ‘Iniki, it happened that his son was here on a visit. My son and his ex-wife, both teachers, housed several teacher friends who lived in less substantial housing and experienced all of the above.

At one point, they took in a neighbor and his aged mother who, sadly, released her own life as the storm died down–possibly hurried along from the extreme stress and tension in the air. But along with that, the comfort and caring in the group in the presence of devastation and death is what my son in years since has remarked that he remembers most.

Along with pre-storm “battening down the hatches,” checking if the generator still works, filling up the gas tank and purchasing gas cooker canisters or charcoal, making sure plenty of water for drinking and flushing is on hand, plus first aid supplies and plastic sheeting, and stocking the pantry, remembering pet food, if needed, perhaps it would be good to make a safety-net neighbor plan.

Writing down these thoughts now before this column’s deadline is spurring me to follow through on that idea which is still hanging as we keep our fingers crossed about the threat of Lester.

I did, however, stock up extra canned goods and a Ramen special at the Kapaa Big Save. No use filling the freezer or the vegetable crisper or fruit bowl. I remember burying so much meat and produce we couldn’t keep cool, frozen, and safely edible after we lost power in 1992.

My guess is that all those earth-composted goodies dug into holes around our tangerine tree roots have made that tree the producing wonder that it is —yes, even after 24 years. It is loaded as I approach the save-and-send clicks, a wonder of “green flash” immature tangerines that may come to term for Christmas and New Year’s, give or take a new hurricane.

As for this Green Flash, it will be reaching you IF the storm bypasses us, IF the internet doesn’t get interrupted, IF the newspapers can be flown back to The Garden Island after being printed on the Honolulu presses, and IF the Kauai roads are not a mish-mash of building wreckage, downed trees and electric lines so the carriers can make those subscription deliveries.

Last errant thought: Now the cockroaches in those volcano seismic measurement labs can relax their antennae. I hope I hope – no, I should make that more inclusive, Dear Readers: We hope, we hope and pray!

•••

Dawn Fraser Kawahara, author and poet, made her home on Kauai over, 30 years ago. She and her husband, a retired biology teacher, live quietly with books, music and birds in Wailua homesteads. The writer’s books may be found in local outlets and on Amazon.

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