The Winter Storm of 1971 - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

The Winter Storm of 1971

This house was blown off it's foundation at Whitmore Village, Oahu This house was blown off it's foundation at Whitmore Village, Oahu
Cars were swept into a pit at Kihei, Maui Cars were swept into a pit at Kihei, Maui
Kailua-Kona was the scene of the destruction of the Hukilau Hotel in January 1971 Kailua-Kona was the scene of the destruction of the Hukilau Hotel in January 1971


by Sharie Shima

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii s weather may not always grab newspaper headlines. But the winter of 1971 left it's mark. A powerful storm made it one of the worst winters in island history, causing millions of dollars in damage.

In January 1971, an intense winter storm set the stage for an outbreak of destructive tornadoes. The first one hit Whitmore Village just after midnight, residents awoke to find 21 homes damaged or destroyed.The strong winds moved one home eight feet off it's foundation. The devastation left the community in shock.

But it was still early in the day. The storm then took aim at Maui. It dumped torrential rain causing flash flooding. Several cars in Kihei didn't stand a chance. The force of the flooding washed out a parking lot pushing the cars into a ten foot pit.

The worst was yet to come. By 11:00 that morning a normally tranquil Kona bay was transformed into a war zone. The storm unleashed a waterspout towering 800 feet high. It tore across the bay with winds more than 100 miles an hour. It made landfall as a tornado.The strength of the winds tossed debris hundreds of feet in to the air. The twister easily tore down the six-story steel structure of the Hukilau hotel. Amazingly, only one woman was hurt. When the storm was finished, it left behind millions of dollars in damages.

The storm unleased a total of four tornados that day. They are rare in Hawaii because the trade winds are in control most of the time.