Kaua'i Island, HI Hurricane Iniki, Sept 1992

Storm Surge, Hurricane Iniki, Sept 1992

Hurricane Iniki (ee-NEE-kee; Hawaiian: 'iniki meaning "strong and piercing wind") was the most powerful hurricane to strike the U.S. state of Hawaii in recorded history. Forming on September 5, 1992, during the strong 1990-95 El Niño, Iniki was one of eleven Central Pacific tropical cyclones during that season. It attained tropical storm status on September 8 and further intensified into a hurricane the next day. After turning north, Iniki struck the island of Kaua'i on September 11 at peak intensity; it had winds of 165 miles per hour (266 km/h) and reached Category 5 on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale. It had recorded wind gusts of 225 as evidenced by a windometer that was found blown into the forest during clean up. It was the first hurricane to hit the state since Hurricane Iwa in the 1982 season, and the first major hurricane since Hurricane Dot in 1959. Iniki dissipated on September 13 about halfway between Hawaii and Alaska.

Iniki caused around $1.8 billion (1992 USD) of damage and six deaths. At the time, Iniki was among the costliest United States hurricanes, and it remains one of the costliest hurricanes on record in the eastern Pacific. The storm struck just weeks after Hurricane Andrew, the costliest tropical cyclone ever at the time, struck Florida.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) failed to issue tropical cyclone warnings and watches 24 hours in advance. Despite the lack of early warning, only six deaths ensued. Damage was greatest on Kaua'i, where the hurricane destroyed more than 1,400 houses and severely damaged more than 5,000. Though not directly in the path of the eye, O'ahu experienced moderate damage from wind and storm surge.

Hurricane Iniki was the costliest hurricane to strike the state of Hawai'i, causing $1.8 billion in damage. Most damage was on the island of Kaua'i, where the storm destroyed thousands of homes and left a large amount of the island without power, although O'ahu also suffered significant damage. Iniki also was responsible for six deaths.

The hurricane nearly struck the Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. Had it hit there, Iniki, along with Hurricane Andrew and Typhoon Omar, would have struck each of the three National Weather Service offices responsible for tropical cyclone warnings within a two-month period.

Immediately after the storm, many were relieved to have survived the worst of the Category 4 hurricane; their complacency turned to apprehensiveness due to lack of information, as every radio station was out and there was no news available for several days. Because Iniki knocked out electrical power for most of the island, communities held parties to necessarily consume perishable food from unpowered refrigerators and freezers. Though food markets allowed those affected to take what they needed, many Kaua'i citizens insisted on paying. In addition, entertainers from all of Hawai'i, including Graham Nash (who owns a home on the north shore of Kaua'i) and the Honolulu Symphony, provided free concerts to the victims.

Looting occurred in the aftermath of Iniki, though it was very minor. A group of Army Corps of Engineers, who experienced the looting of Hurricane Andrew just weeks before, were surprised at the overall calmness and lack of violence on the island. Although electrical power was restored to most of the island approximately six weeks following the hurricane, students returned to Kaua'i public schools two weeks after the disaster. Kaua'i citizens remained hopeful for monetary aid from the government or insurance companies, though after six months they felt annoyed with the lack of help. The military effectively provided aid for their immediate needs, though, and help arrived before local officials requested aid.

Amateur radio proved to be extremely helpful during the three weeks after the storm, with volunteers coming from the neighboring islands as well as from around the Pacific to assist in the recovery. There was support of local government communications in Lihue in the first week of recovery as well as a hastily organized effort by local operators to assist with the American Red Cross and their efforts to provide shelters and disaster relief centers across Kaua'i.

In the months after the storm, many insurance companies left Hawai'i. To combat this, State Governor John D. Waihee III enacted the Hurricane Relief Fund in 1993 to help unprotected Hawai'i residents. The fund was never needed for another Hawai'i hurricane, and it was stopped in 2000 when insurance companies returned to the island.

It is thought that Hurricane Iniki blew apart many chicken coops, some possibly used to house fighting chickens; this caused a dramatic increase in the numbers of wild chickens roaming Kaua'i.

The name Iniki was retired due to this storm, and was replaced with Iolana within the Central North Pacific tropical storm list. Less than three days after Iniki struck, Hurricane Orlene struck the Big Island as a depression.