Hard work led
to Garden Isle’s recovery


Kauai is approaching the 10th anniversary of the day Hurricane Iniki struck the island.

KAUAI residents can remember being terrified on Sept. 11 long before that date attained the infamy that will be recognized around the country tomorrow. It was on that date 10 years ago that Hurricane Iniki devastated the island. Patience, determination and optimism by Kauai residents and their elected leaders have brought the Garden Island to nearly full recovery.

As recalled in Sunday's Star-Bulletin by Kauai correspondent Anthony Sommer, the most powerful hurricane to hit Hawaii in more than a century destroyed 1,200 of Kauai's homes and damaged 11,700, leaving 7,000 people homeless. Damage was estimated at $2 billion. Two Kauai residents were killed in the storm, as were two Honolulu residents when their boat capsized and a National Guardsman struck by a live power line during cleanup.

"Early the next day, we did a helicopter tour of the island," remembers then-Mayor JoAnn Yukimura. "When we circled over Poipu, I couldn't even recognize the coastline. That's when I started crying. It was such a shock."

For five years in the aftermath of Iniki, insurance companies stopped providing hurricane coverage for homes and resorts, forcing the state to create a fund to assure such coverage. The return of private insurance to the marketplace has left a $213 million Hurricane Relief Fund that tantalizes state officials trying to balance the state's budget.

In the year before Iniki, Kauai had posted its best tourism figures ever, with 1.23 million visitors. The island did not reach the 1 million mark again until 1998. Many hotels were severely damaged; the Coco Palms Resort, the wedding venue in Elvis Presley's 1962 movie, "Blue Hawaii," remains closed.

Kauai is better prepared for the next hurricane, as is the state. New standards requiring double-wall construction for new and extensively rebuilt homes and ground-to-roof metal ties were adopted soon after Iniki. Mark Marshall, director of civil defense on Kauai, says hotels damaged by Iniki have been rebuilt to withstand high winds and have been set back further from the shoreline.

Rebuilding the island's tourism industry was a greater challenge. Government and private-sector representatives assembled a traveling road show consisting of seminars attended by about 500 travel agents. Still, Kauai's hotels were able to fill fewer than 40 percent of their rooms in 1996.

Tourism businessman Freckles Smith and Maryanne Kusaka, who became mayor in 1994, went to the American Society of Travel Agents' global convention in Philadelphia and urged them to visit Kauai the following year.

"About 600 of them came," Kusaka says, "and I think that was really the beginning of our turning the corner." Kauai's tourism finally returned to normalcy in 1999.


Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791;
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768;
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762;

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790;
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533;

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