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What are my risks?

What are the chances of a hurricane destroying my home?

No one knows. We can only go on past history. Almost no one expected a hurricane as powerful as Iniki would strike Hawaii. The best we can guess is hurricanes in the future will probably hit Hawaii as frequently as they have in the past. We know that since 1950 five hurricanes or tropical storms have caused serious damage in Hawaii. Hurricane Nina in 1957 produced record winds in Honolulu. Hurricane Dot did a lot of damage on Kauai in 1959. Hurricane Iwa did extensive damage on Kauai and Oahu in 1982. Hurricane Estelle produced very high surf on Hawaii and Maui and floods on Oahu in 1986. Hurricane Iniki did extensive damage on Kauai and Leeward Oahu in 1992. Since 1950, seven other tropical storms or hurricanes could have caused serious damage. These include Hurricane Fernanda in 1993, Hurricane Emilia in 1994, and Hurricane Daniel in August 2000.

Where have the most wind-related insurance claims been on Kauai?

The data for this map was compiled from various insurance firms' homeowner policy claims from 1989 to 1999. This is intended to serve only for a general hazard indicator map and is not meant as a policy document.

Source: Hawaii Hurricane Relief Fund

What are the potential losses from future hurricanes on Kauai?

If a Category 1 storm as strong as Hurricane Iwa, with winds gusting at 74 mph, strikes any of the islands in the state, we can guess from past experience that about 12% of the houses and apartments could be destroyed or heavily damaged and about 18% would probably experience minor damages.

If a Category 3 storm strikes any island with the same force as Iniki, with winds raging at 130 mph, we can guess that about 38% of the homes will be heavily damaged or destroyed. An additional 40% will probably have minor damages.

The following information was extrapolated from Kauai Damage in 1982 and 1992. ($ billion in 1992)

  Oahu Maui Hawaii Kauai
Iwa-Strength Storm $4.5-7.5 $0.8-1.4 $0.8-1.4 $0.3-0.6
Iniki-Strength Storm $13.9-23.3 $2.7-4.5 $2.6-4.4 $1.1-1.9

Source: Hawaii Coastal Hazard Mitigation Planning Project, Office of Planning, December 1993

Where have strong winds been measured on Kauai?

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Kauai has experienced exceptionally strong trade wind events, winter Kona storms, and passing tropical storms and hurricanes. Occasionally, trade winds strengthen to between 25-40 mph for several days. Strong winds associated with winter Kona storms can reach great velocities. Passing tropical storms and hurricanes and have been reported at over 100 mph.

Often, winds accelerate as they descend from the mountains to the coastal plain. In many instances, the highest recorded gusts associated with passing storms have occurred on the side of the island opposite the storm's approach as winds burst in downdrafts across ridge crests from the steep pali to the coast below.

On Kauai, numerous high wind events have affected the entire island, and many were associated with passing storms. Hurricanes Dot (1959), Iwa (1982), and Iniki (1992) were exceptionally damaging. Hurricane Dot packed sustained winds of 75 mph with gusts of 165 mph as it passed directly over Kauai. Winds and flooding led to $5.5-6 million in agricultural losses and hundreds of houses and trees were damaged.

Hurricanes Iwa and Iniki both produced high waves ranging 20-30 feet and winds over 125 mph. Although Hurricane Iwa passed to the northwest of Kauai, the high surf it produced, combined with a 5-6 foot storm surge, flooded 600 feet inland in areas between Kekaha and Poipu and caused $312 million in damage. Ironically, despite the massive flooding and wind damage to the Poipu area, redevelopment following Iwa occurred in precisely the same location, only to be devastated 10 years later by Hurricane Iniki. Today, these same areas are once again densely developed.

On September 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki, the strongest and most destructive hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands, made landfall just west of Port Allen on Kauai's south shore. Iniki's winds were sustained at 130 mph and gusts topped 160 mph. Winds and waves destroyed 1,421 houses and caused minor to heavy damage to some 13,000.

Source: Fletcher, Charles, Eric Grossman, Bruce Richmond. Atlas of Natural Hazards in the Hawaiian Coastal Zone. 2000.