HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - At 8 a.m. on Sept. 11, 1992, Hurricane Iniki reached its peak intensity — and was headed straight for Kauai.
The warning sirens started blaring early that morning and the hours before impact were chaotic.
Long lines of cars could be seen at gas stations and grocery stores were packed with people scrambling to prepare for the storm, which had made a sudden and unexpected turn toward the islands. Items like candles, batteries, and flashlights quickly sold out.
Across Kauai, residents boarded up their windows and thousands of visitors were at Lihue Airport hoping to get off the island. Once the airlines stopped service, many people were shuttled to nearby shelters, including the former Westin Kauai.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center says Iniki brought 140 mph winds, with gusts as high as 175 miles per hour, that ripped off roofs, uprooted trees, and knocked out all power and telephone service islandwide.
Heavy rain, waves up to 30 feet, and intense storm surge caused major coastal flooding, especially on the south shore.
Even all these years later, Iniki remains the most powerful hurricane to hit the state in modern history.
County leaders say it took about a decade for the island to completely recover.
The massive Category 4 storm damaged or destroyed 90% of the island’s homes and buildings.
It knocked down thousands of utility poles, cutting off power. It took the utility more than two months to restore the grid to all neighborhoods, but some families still spent the holidays in the dark.