Forecasters remember Iniki and how far we've come

By Paula Akana
Published On: Sep 11 2012 06:06:48 PM HST
Updated On: Sep 11 2012 09:11:56 PM HST

On the 20th anniversary of Hawaii's most costly natural disaster, we remember how the eye of Hurricane Iniki left a path of devastation that would take years to clean up.

HONOLULU -

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Hawaii's costliest natural disaster.

The eye of Hurricane Iniki took just 40 minutes to cross Kauai, but left a path of devastation that would take years to clean up.

The Category 4 storm affected 90 percent of the island's structures.  More than 14,000 were damaged or destroyed.

In all, Iniki cost the state $2.8 billion dollars and caused six deaths.

Two decades later, forecasting is more accurate, but the push remains to get residents prepared.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Central Pacific Hurricane Center and Hawaii State Civil Defense held a news conference on this 20-year anniversary to remember the event and to share the additional satellites and changed in technology that now helps forecasters to track a storm more accurately, providing more time for residents to prepare.

"In 1992, our forecast only went out three days.  It was the same as the entire U.S," said Ray Tanabe, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.  "In 2003, we were able to increase that to five days and very likely, within the next 1-to-2-years, we're going to be providing a 7-day forecast for tropical cyclones."

The last major threat to the islands came in 2009 from Hurricane Felicia.  And while it has been quiet, forecasters remind us we are in the peak of hurricane season when weather conditions, including cold fronts to the north, play a role in increasing the storm activity.

"As that gets going there's more of a draw for storms moving south of the state to be pulled to the north toward the islands," said forecaster Michael Cantin.

The message today:  be prepared.  Have a family emergency plan and seven days of food, water, and medicine on hand.

"The bottom line is we can't let our guard down and we always need to be prepared.  The best warning we issue don't mean anything if you're not listening; if you wait too long or if you're not prepared," said Tanabe.

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