A Raging Reminder To Remain Calm

Ryan Trenton, 8, stands outside the remains of his house that had previously stood on Hoona Road near Poipu before being shoved a few hundred feet inland and into another house by shore surge created by Hurricane Iniki. Dean Sensui / Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo

Ryan Trenton, 8, stands outside the remains of his house that had previously stood on Hoona Road near Poipu before being shoved a few hundred feet inland and into another house by shore surge created by Hurricane Iniki.
Dean Sensui / Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo

I always know how many years ago Hurricane Iniki knocked at Kauai’s door. I just have to remember my daughter’s age.

Twenty-three years ago, I sat huddled in a dark hallway of a basement very pregnant and very scared. But it’s not something you tell yourself at the time. No, you have to remain calm because you are responsible for people’s lives — in my case, a fetus seven months old and a 5-year-old child.

Earlier in the day, I am at home in sea-level Kekaha, where surges are expected to inundate the area when the storm hits. I worry about the brand-new clothes washer sitting outside under the eaves, some valuable electronics like our large hard drive, a massive printer and a heavy TV set. They all could be destroyed by the salt air and water.

With my husband off-island on business, I seriously consider moving the washer a few steps into the house by myself with a dolly. Too difficult, I abandon that idea, but before evacuating, I manage to carry out the computer, printer, TV and anything else I can stuff into our little old Toyota Tercel. That’s enough to send me into premature labor!

How foolish is that? My husband makes the last flight to Kauai, catches a taxi to my parents’ house and joins us for the party. Soon after, the wind begins to make its presence known. My dad and I courageously peek out of the sheltered front door to observe the changing conditions. But bravery is easy when the battle has not yet begun — the weak banana trees across the street only just beginning to feel the unusual current of air.

Slowly, the winds pick up and eventually, gale force winds power through. The skylights on the ceiling above the stairwell start rattling and rain begins forcing itself through the narrow jalousie slats. I lead the way downstairs into the half-basement, but my parents don’t follow. They stay, frantically wiping up the water puddling on their beautiful oak floors in the formal dining area. The dutiful son-in-law, my husband, joins in to help them.

Again, how foolish is this all? I am my parents’ child all right.

The wind now buckling the picture windows adjacent to the jalousies, I urge them all to come downstairs, that we can clean it up later. But my parents resist, their sanctuary at risk of being flooded. Very pregnant, and feeling alone and scared, all I can do is wait for them in the basement hallway.

Then, suddenly, the large plexiglass skylight panels dislodge from the ceiling and crash onto the stairwell below. Serving as a thunderous warning, my parents finally decide that they are no match for the force of nature. Resigned, they join me in the basement hallway to wait out the storm.

It’s mind-boggling the crazy decisions we make in the face of calamity that can produce dire results.

The lesson?

I always can plan better for the next hurricane — it’s never enough and never too late. But once Mother Nature knocks at the door, just go with her flow. Then perhaps, unlike 23 years ago, true calm will prevail.

janeesaki@gmail.com

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