In recent memory, and since Hawaii became one of the United States, there were a couple of hurricanes that tore through Hawaii. There was a lot of devastation and some people even died as a result. The hurricanes were Hurricane Iwa on 11/23/1982 which hit Oahu, Kauai, and Ni’ihau. This was not a giant hurricane, it ranked Category 1.
The next hurricane, Iniki, was a more powerful Category 4 storm, and hit Kauai straight on during 9/11/1992. Hurricane Iniki caused 6 deaths and nearly $2 billion dollars in damage.
In addition to the strong winds – the storm surge caused significant flooding.
Ensure you are familiar with the hurricane evacuation plan for your area – and where the shelters are all around the island, in case you are not close to home.
One natural disaster phenomenon that has the most potentially devastating effect, is a tsunami. In terms of death, a tsunami could wreak havoc on Honolulu – which remains, largely – at a meter or so above sea level.
On average a tsunami hits the Hawaiian islands about once each year. There is not damage with each tsunami, it could amount to little more than a ripple. Damaging tsunamis hit about once every seven years.
Tsunamis almost always occur after an earthquake near the ocean – or actually under the ocean.
The worst tsunami in recent times occurred in 1946, April Fool’s Day, when a large tsunami hit Hawaii and killed nearly 160 people. There was no warning system in place, and many died exploring the sea life flopping around on the beach after the water pulled away from the beach.
How high was the tsunami surge? On the Big Island it hit 55 feet high. Some of the waves (surges) made it over a half-mile inland from where it usually hit.
Tsunamis travel across the open ocean at 400-500 miles per hour, though they slow down a lot by the time they reach the shallows bordering the beaches.
The biggest wave of a tsunami?
It’s never the same numbered wave, but it’s somewhere in the middle of the set of waves. So, knowing that, if you see the first wave come in – and it hits the parking area where your car is – get out fast because the next one, or the next one after the next one – may be 55 feet high.
Get to higher ground immediately.
Many people surviving the Boxing Day Tsunami in southeast Asia survived by climbing up 2-3 stories of sturdy (concrete) hotels on the beach. They were able to watch the devastation with front row seats. There is no telling how big the waves will get – so, 2-3 stories may not be enough. If you can – go higher.
Don’t forget – once the waves come in, they have to go back out… when they do – a whole lot more destruction takes place as the wave carries wood, trees, boats, cars, people, and everything lighter than the rushing water itself. Even though the water may seem shallow – 1-2 feet high once the waves come in – DO NOT get in it – because the rip currents will be incredibly strong and might sweep you off your feet and to your death.
Yes, it’s that serious.
Hawaii Mountain Landslides
My friend had signed the deal on his house in the Kalihi Valley and we were moving things in. It had been raining for a couple days, nothing too hard, but pretty consistent. We saw the ambulance, firetrucks and police head further up the mountain from where his house was – and wondered what was up. We couldn’t see anything, and we’re not much into gawking, but we wondered.
We were at a bar that night and someone mentioned that a boulder flew off the mountain and came down the cliff and ripped right through someone’s house. One person was killed instantly, and there weren’t any more injuries.
Many, I’d almost say “most houses” border steep cliff areas of the Ko’olau or Wianaie mountains. When it rains for a long time, the dirt softens up so much that it starts letting things go from the hill. It’s not like a Raiders of the Lost Ark action scene, it happens rarely, but still – it’s a danger that you need to be aware of. This kind of thing happens sometimes.
Be safe, Hawaii is generally a very safe place to live and vacation and most of the weather dangers, water dangers, and everything else mentioned in these “danger” sections will never affect you. Just better to let you know these things exist I think.