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The Tale of Hurricane Iniki

24 May, 1998

TheEpicenter.com was founded in 1995 by Bryan Nelson after his return to the Island of Kauai, Hawaii for the first time in 2-1/2 years since Hurricane Iniki struck the Islands. Bryan and his wife (at the time) were on Kauai that fateful day, September 11, 1992, when Iniki took the island by surprise.

Bryan says, "We haven't always been preppers or survivalists, but after going through an event like a hurricane, we don't want to be caught unprepared again! Like most people, we thought about preparing for a natural disaster after something awful happened somewhere. "Thank God it wasn't here and we are OK." Everyone is busy, and when the news fades and spring arrives, the lawn needs mowing, the cars need a tune up, and the gutters still need repair. We understand, because we've been there!"

A few memories the experience:

  • Iniki as the winds start. Note the bushes hiding the building.
  • The winds kick up.
  • The eye passes, the bushes are gone! Now the building is visible.
  • The storm ends. The palm trees are now palm "sticks" by moonlight.
  • The next day, we see that the end unit on the 3rd floor is gone!
  • We make our escape four days later when the airport opens. This line was seven hours long. We are seated. And we patiently wait.


The story begins on Thursday, September 10, 1992. We were enjoying the sights on our last day before returning to Seattle when news of an approaching hurricane (Iniki) came on the radio in the rental car. We were in the town of Princeville, on the northern end of the island. of Kaui. We had just completed a day long boat adventure on the Napali Coast (a three hour tour—sound familiar?). It was the perfect day, gorgeous scenery, the kind to sell one's soul for. Sell everything and move to the Beach! On our way back to the condo, the car radio reported that the storm was passing several hundred miles south of the Big Island (Hawaii) and was expected to have no effect on the island of Kauai. We were leaving the next day, Friday, to return home. Our flight wasn't until 10:30 am the next day.

Since we were leaving the next morning, we planned that our supplies including food and drinks, would be used up by Thursday, and then we would go out to dinner on our last night. The next morning we would catch a bite to eat on the way to the airport. Fortunately, we hadn't spent all our cash yet!

Our escape attempt

At about 5am on Friday, we woke to air-raid sirens and tuned into the local radio station to find out what was going on. Iniki had performed a trick they call "recurrence" overnight, and was heading directly toward us! At that time, it was expected to hit the island of Oahu which is about one hundred miles southeast. Over the next few hours, the forecast changed to say that Iniki was going to pass between the two islands. I went to the gas station and filled the tank. Nothing else was open. We then packed up, and checked out of the condo at around 7:30 am By this time, local authorities were predicting that the hurricane would start to hit around Noon, with peak winds around 5 pm.

We started toward the airport. No more than two blocks from the condo, the news said that there was a three-hour backup on the way to the airport, and they were recommending that people make plans to stay. They updated the arrival time of Iniki, and said that the airport was going to close before our flight was scheduled to leave! Anyone who didn't make it out of the airport when it closed, would be stuck at emergency shelters. We returned to the condo and checked back in.

OK, let's batten down the hatches

We filled every pot and pan in the condo with water. We even filled the bath tubs. We followed instructions on the radio to crack open all the windows. We watched the events from the living room until the radio station announced that power would be turned off when the wind speed reached 45 knots, and that we should expect sustained winds to 165 MPH. Iniki had become a Category 5 hurricane—as large as they get!

We gathered the six or seven leftover crackers, the small piece of cheese, the drink mixer, a candle, and the last of the rum and headed to the inside wall of the bathroom.

Curiosity killed the cat

From time to time, and against my better judgment, I would open the door and peek out of the bathroom door from a floor position. When a large gust of wind was coming, I could feel the air pressure in my ears.

The storm raged on and we lost interest in seeing what was happening. We could hear people in the bathroom above us, and knew they had the same plans for riding out the storm. All at once, we heard crashing sounds from the unit above us. It sounded like a garbage truck full of glass was unloading at the dump. Then the sound changed to something like a freight train running through the unit. It's hard to describe sounds like that, and even harder to forget.

We just didn't know

We didn't think it would last as long as it did. We thought it would be something like a tornado, causing lots of damage and then ending. We had no idea it would last all day! We were surprised when the eye passed. It was quiet, and calm. When the eye was directly overhead, the people above us made their escape. They headed to the recreation center in the same condo complex.

The eye passed, and when the wall of the other side of the eye hit, we were surprised when the winds reversed. It makes sense now, but we were astonished at the time. Then the storm started again and at full force! Just about any tree that was knocked over but not uprooted, was ripped out when the winds reversed!

What happened upstairs?

We knew there was extensive damage in the two units above us. Water was cascading down the walls in our living room, but our unit was otherwise intact. After it all ended, and by flashlight, we helped the people upstairs get a few items out of their unit. All the windows had blown out. Even the solid core door, complete with hinges and door jam, had ripped out of the wall. There were items from the bedroom that had moved the entire length of the unit to the living room. Some items from the living room were gone, later to be located in the grassy area a ways from the condo.

The next day, we saw the damage to the unit on the third floor. Not only were all the windows and sliding glass doors broken, but the entire roof was gone! Nothing was left except ceiling joists! We didn't know it at the time, but there was a young couple in the bathroom of the third floor unit the entire night! There was so much debris, they decided to stay put until daylight.

What about food?

To be continued...