Hurricane Iniki slammed into the northern Hawaiian island of Kauai Sept. 11, with winds reaching 160 miles an hour, which destroyed 9 percent of the members' homes on Kauai and damaged all five meetinghouses on the island, one seriously.
Pres. James P. Davey of the Kauai Hawaii Stake reported that all missionaries and members on the island are safe. There are 2,100 members in five wards and one branch on Kauai.At least three people died in the disaster, which seriously damaged about 10,000 of the island's 21,000 homes. Between 7,000-8,000 people were left homeless.
Hurricane Iniki occurred just a little more than three weeks after Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of southern Florida and struck Louisiana in August. (Please see Church News, Aug. 29, Sept. 5, and Sept. 12.) Hurricane Andrew left a quarter of a million people homeless and 15 dead.
Preliminary damage estimates caused by Hurricane Iniki on Kauai range from $300 million to possibly $1 billion, according to The Associated Press. To a much lesser degree, the hurricane also affected the islands of Oahu and Hawaii, with damage on Oahu estimated at $2.5 million and on Hawaii, $1.3 million.
Pres. Davey related that about 90 percent of all buildings on Kauai, which is approximately 30 miles across, received at least some damage, including the luxury hotels that cater to tourists. The AP said electrical power was knocked out, as well as telephone service, but limited phone service has been restored to portions of the island, which has a population of about 52,000. Power is expected to be restored in some areas by the week of Sept. 21. About half of the island now has running water.
Pres. Davey said that in addition to the members' homes that were destroyed, a number of other homes were damaged, some seriously.
Steven Lee, second counselor in the stake presidency, said the Kalaheo Ward meetinghouse received serious damage. Its roof was torn off and some walls were cracked.
Elder Jack H Goaslind of the Seventy and a member of the North America West Area presidency, toured Kauai Sept. 15 to assess damages and needs. He was accompanied by F. Earl Matheson, area Welfare Services director; Glenn Lung, the Church's physical facilities field manager for Hawaii; Elder Donald L. Hallstrom, regional representative; and Pres. Marlin A. Fairbourn of the Hawaii Honolulu Mission. Pres. Davey and Pres. Lee conducted the tour.
Elder Goaslind, who also visited damaged meetinghouses, told some of the members on Kauai, "The First Presidency of the Church is aware of your problems and extend their love and prayers."
Bishop Franklin D. Kakazu of the Lihue Ward said that the most extensive damage was in the area that encompasses his ward, on the southeast side of the island. There are about 347 members in the Lihue Ward, and Bishop Kakazu said that about 16 families lost their homes, but he emphasized that two families sometimes live in one home. He added that about 42 homes had moderate damage.
"We received sufficient warning to be on alert for a hurricane," related Bishop Kakazu. "So we were pretty much prepared. During the actual storm, my wife and I and our 2-year-old son took refuge in our bathroom, which was the safest place in the house. We had our radio, our 72-hour emergency kit, and some protective padding, such as blankets and pillows.
"As we huddled in the bathroom, we could hear glass shattering and the wind howling. The eye of the hurricane passed right over Kauai. When the storm first began, the winds came from an easterly direction. Then as the eye passed, the wind shifted to coming from the west. We stayed in our bathroom from about 3:30 p.m. to about 7 p.m. When I first looked out our living room window, I saw a large boat and trailer sitting by my driveway. That boat came from several houses away."
Pres. Lee related that "in the midst of the hurricane, two brothers went up to the roof of their home. It was a flat roof, and it was caving in from the weight of the water. They went up to clear the drain. The younger brother, about 17 years old, was picked up by the force of the wind and was being carried away. His brother, about 26, grabbed him by his ankle and pulled him down."
He also told how the stake patriarch, Libbert K. Makaahiki, huddled under a table and mattress with his wife and his wife's sister during the storm. The house was destroyed, but they were unscathed.
Despite the devastation, he explained, "The spirit of the people is very strong. They have responded positively to the challenge. The people who lost the most have the best attitude. They want to rebuild their lives, and they are grateful to be alive."
This faith and gratitude is being expressed as members reach out to help others. Pres. Lee said some relief efforts began before the storm subsided. "We had members rescue people who had homes torn apart," he related. "In the midst of the hurricane, they went out and got the people and took them in."
Bishop Kakazu explained, "Everyone in the community is trying to help each other. Everyone is in the same situation."
And members are helping in a variety of ways. Since the Hanalei Branch meetinghouse has gas cooking facilities in operation, explained Pres. Lee, the members have been helping coordinate and distribute medical supplies and have been providing hot food to hundreds of people. He said various relief agencies have been providing the supplies and food.
"All the full-time missionaries have been out visiting non-members and less-active families, helping them clean up their homes and give them encouragement," he said. He added that full-time missionaries are planning to coordinate the distribution of relief supplies from the stake center on Sept. 16. The relief was to come from the Church in Honolulu, from Salt Lake City and from non-LDS agencies, and the supplies are available to both members and non-members.
Many other members are cleaning debris in the area and are helping to assess damages.
"We're all coping," said Bishop Kakazu. "Anything is possible with hard work and faith." - Julie A. Dockstader