Remembering Iniki's wrath

Storm survivors remember the fateful day 20 years ago

Published  9:23 AM HST Sep 12, 2012

20 years ago on this date, Hurricane Iniki ripped through Kauai and changed its landscape forever.

The storm killed six people and still haunts some residents who remember that day, so that they'll be prepared if another hurricane strikes again.

"I don't think people got too concerned until the last half day," said Kalaheo resident Ron Crown.

That was part of the problem as Hurricane Iniki caught some people by surprise and others who were unprepared for a Category 4 hurricane.

Just 10 years before Iniki, Iwa passed through the islands.

"I spent Hurricane Iwa in a house, but as soon as Iniki hit I knew it was a whole different animal.  Big different.  Category 1 and 4 or 5," said Kalaheo resident Dave Chapman.

With winds whipping at more than 140 mph, Iniki ripped through the Garden Isle leaving a path of destruction -- 1,400 homes destroyed.

"I was shocked to see my street and houses all wrecked on one side," said Crown.

Iniki also severely damaged more than 5,000 homes including Chapman's.

"I looked out the bedroom door to see how the ceiling was doing and the whole front of my house was gone," said Chapman.

Chapman had to rebuild his home.  But this time, like many other residents, he did it differently.

"Ever stub clipped and clipped all the way to the ground and concrete all the way around the house," said Chapman.

After Iniki, Kauai County changed some of its building codes, including requiring homes to be anchored with hurricane clips.

But, while much of Kauai has come back to life, there is still a stark reminder of what was destroyed that day.

"It really touches our hearts everyday because we see it the way it is," said former Kauai County Mayor Maryanne Kusaka.

Kusaka dreams of Coco Palms Resort in Wailua reopening one day.  For now, all you see are signs of a crumbling hotel, that was once the setting for Elvis Presley's movie "Blue Hawaii."

"It means a lot not only to me but many residents.  It was a wonderful place," said Kusaka.

An insurance battle lasting a decade and now a battle over permits has stalled redevelopment of the resort.

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