It was the calm before the storm of Hurricane Iniki — and Kauai didn't know what it was in for

25 years ago, a normal day turned into a mad scramble as Iniki turned to Kauai
Published: Sep. 10, 2017 at 2:50 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 11, 2017 at 5:23 PM HST
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KAUAI, (HawaiiNewsNow) - Monday marks 25 years since Iniki pummeled Kauai.

On Sept. 11, 1992, the Category 4 hurricane devastated everything in her path, with catastrophic winds, storm surge, and flooding.

The day before the storm was just an ordinary day.

People were at work. Children were in school. Life on the island was laid back as usual.

Meanwhile, Iniki was about 400 miles south of Oahu -- slowing down and getting stronger.

But many people thought the powerful storm would not be a threat.

"We were aware there was a storm heading to Hawaii and it was way south. It was heading in a very straight direction passing the island chain," said Ed Nakaya, who worked for Kauai Electric at the time.

"I don't believe that anybody thought it was for real," said Dickie Chang, former head of guest services at the Westin Kauai.

"When I went home on Thursday, September 10, I thought I was coming back to work the next day," said Wilcox Elementary School teacher Karen Joto.

The Hollywood blockbuster "Jurassic Park" was being filmed. More than a hundred cast and crew members were getting ready to wrap up production.

"I was on the set of Jurassic Park and was actually thanking Steven Spielberg for filming on Kauai. They were going to be leaving in a couple days," said Sue Kanoho, executive director of the Kauai Visitors Bureau.

At around 5 p.m., the Central Pacific Hurricane Center reported Iniki had taken an ominous turn. Forecasters issued a Hurricane Watch for Kauai and Niihau. By 8:30 p.m., it was clear the storm was heading north and the watch became a Hurricane Warning.

People watching TV were shocked.

"All of a sudden they break in and say a Hurricane Warning has been issued for Kauai. And we're going, 'A hurricane!? What do you mean a Hurricane Warning!?' We hadn't heard a thing about this," said Kauai resident Bob Jasper.

Forecasters predicted the eye of the storm would hit Kauai on the afternoon of Sept. 11.

"The lines had already started that night for gas so we went and gassed up our cars and got tape and taped our windows," Kanoho said.

"We started buying water and everything. People were looking at us like we were nuts," said Jasper.

"I remember huddling up in our home. I remember boarding up our windows. I remember helping my neighbor," said Kauai mayor Bernard Carvalho.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura -- Kauai's mayor at the time -- was on Oahu for an event when she heard the warning.

"We were told we had to come back right away. There were no commercial flights left so the Air National Guard brought me and several of my cabinet members back in the middle of the night," said Yukimura.

She says she activated the Emergency Operations Center around midnight.

"I slept on the floor of the mayor's office. We were not very prepared, I'm sorry to say," she said.

Kauai's residents and visitors went to bed that night uncertain of the devastation the next day would bring.

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Next in this series: Iniki was the most powerful storm to hit Hawaii in modern history. Twenty-five years later, HNN speaks to those who lived through it.

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