Understanding Hawai’i Hurricane Damage: A Comprehensive Preparedness Checklist

Hurricanes form in areas of enhanced thunderstorms over warm tropical oceans. A concern for Hawai’i, in the middle of the Pacific, is waiting for a destructive storm to hit. Fortunately, in the last 40 years, Hawai’i has only seen three (3) Hurricanes that have impacted our islands and people.

In 1982, category 1 storm, Hurricane Iwa, made landfall, making it the first significant hurricane to strike the island since its statehood in 1959. Damages on Ni’ihau, Kaua’i, and O’ahu exceeded 300 million dollars, destroying 2,345 buildings, and leaving 500 people without homes.

In 1992, category 4 storm, Hurricane Iniki, caused over 1.8 billion dollars in damage on Kaua’i. 1,400 homes were destroyed, 5,000 properties were damaged, and 6 people were killed. Residents were without power for weeks. Many were displaced from their homes. This is Hawaii’s costliest storm on record.

Most recently in 2018, Hurricane Lane caused record-breaking rainfall across the Hawaiian Islands. More than 3,000 insurance claims were made, and the total economic loss exceeded 250 million dollars.

In every case, these hurricanes left people and property in a state of disrepair. Damage like this can be costly and bring your life or business to a screeching halt. That’s why it’s important to prepare for hurricane season. A little forward-thinking can go a long way. More work up front will lessen the impact later.


When you think about being ready for a hurricane, it’s important to understand the immediate and longer-term issues you may face. First and foremost is your safety, the safety of your loved ones, and your occupants/residents. Do you have an evacuation plan that gets everyone out of harm’s way? Can you prepare entry points like windows and doors for heavy winds and water?

What happens after the storm has passed? Hurricanes are powerful enough to knock out your property’s power and usable water. This leaves you with a period of days before perishable food goes bad and it eliminates sources of drinking water.

If your property has sustained damage because of a hurricane, odds are the surrounding community is experiencing the same series of problems. Access to the essentials becomes a high-demand situation, and your ability to pay for them is dependent upon whether you have cash.


Here’s a list of action items that could help you be ready for anything when disaster strikes:

Build an emergency kit

  • Think about the items that are most essential to your post-emergency. Cell towers may be down, so have a portable radio with spare batteries. Prepare first aid supplies, non-perishable food, and enough water that everyone can drink a gallon a day. Ensure that your food and water supplies are appropriately stocked for at least fourteen (14) days.
  • Make sure you have flashlights, headlamps, or battery-powered lanterns for when you are without power at night.
  • Have spare batteries and a portable charge port so you can recharge items like phones and tablets if they’re needed.
  • Prepare and carry cash in case electronic systems are down; stores will open when they are able to operate but may not be able to take credit card payments.

Preparing Essential Supplies

  • Prepare essential specialty products, etc., baby food, hygiene products, and pet food (as appropriate).
  • Pack the appropriate amount of medication for yourself and your family, and plan for pets (food, water, and medication. If you have a pet, check if your designated shelter will accept animals).
  • Have a hard copy of important family documents and emergency numbers to call.
  • Have a change of clothes.
  • Have a post-event go bag ready with emergency kit items and other essentials, such as blankets, feminine supplies, personal hygiene, hand sanitizer, wipes, paper cups, utensils, a whistle, a pen and paper, and local maps that you can quickly grab.
  • Discuss emergency planning with the ‘ohana. Especially those not living in the same home; Are they prepared? What about communication pre and post-hurricane? When & where do you plan to reunite?
  • If possible, consider carrying phones with different service providers (T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, etc.); diversify if possible.


Communicating Evacuation Plans

  1. Communicate evacuation plans to loved ones, including ohana not living with you.
  2. Immediate communication with busy contractors may be challenging. Preparing alternate options to your plan may be beneficial if compounding emergency events happen and service to your property is severely delayed. Make sure you have the materials and protection you need to clean up before the storm hits. Having the proper PPE is important for a safe and faster recovery time. Items like appropriate gloves, trash bags, and tools should be considered carefully.
  3. Review the latest building inspection sheet and make note of any areas that may be at risk during the storm.
  4. Board up doors and windows.
  5. Move furniture and other valuable pieces of equipment away from doors and windows.
  6. Move important contents and documents to the center of the building, in a room where water damage is least likely to occur.
  7. Evacuate if you have time.

Protecting Against Storm Surge

  • Historically, a hurricane’s largest loss of life occurs when a storm surge is high. This refers to the height at which water floods the area. These surges can be upwards of 10-15 feet tall, depending on the storm’s severity. If forecasts detect a storm surge at any point, you need to evacuate to an area outside of the storm’s path, or to higher ground. Pay attention to local Emergency Management or Civil Defense Agencies and follow their guidance.
  • The storms during a hurricane can drop up to 30 inches of water. This can be a life-threatening situation as downed power lines can send electric currents when submerged in water. According to the NOAA, if you are on flat ground and you can see a body of water during a hurricane, you are too close to it and need to evacuate. If you encounter flooding, remember “turn around and don’t drown.”
  • When dealing with strong winds, put as many walls between you and the outside as possible. If the wind speed is closer to 165 mph or higher, storms with wind speeds that high have been known to lift cars and topple houses.  Evacuate to the nearest shelter or get below ground if possible.

Dealing with Power Outages

During a hurricane, your power will most likely go out. Having spare batteries and portable chargers will help you through the initial post-disaster period. While phone reception is poor, you will want your lines of communication open for when things begin to get better. Restoration teams like ours come to hurricane job sites with power generators. Be sure to connect with your restoration team before the disaster to discuss any commercial or large-scale property needs for a generator.

Stay Informed During The Storm

It’s important to stay as informed as possible before, during, and after the storm to know what to expect upon hurricane impact. Understanding how soon support will arrive after a disaster helps you think strategically about using your resources.

Post-Hurricane Recovery Guidelines

Hurricane damage can be extensive and requires a lot of cleanup. As you step into your space and begin to assess the damage, here are a few things that will need to be put in motion.

  • Sometimes storms can create on-site damage. Locate your water and gas shutoff valves and make sure they’re off. SIDENOTE – If it is unsafe to move into these areas, leave it to the professionals.
  • If you smell gas, leave the area immediately.
  • Contact your disaster recovery and property restoration company. Any of the above that you are not able to handle will be taken care of during mitigation.
  • Sometimes damaged areas are inaccessible and restoration efforts will be delayed. Water may sit in the obstructed area of the property, resulting in mold growth, and will require further attention upon your return.


Disaster recovery and property restoration companies like First Onsite break your hurricane recovery into three stages.

Disaster Mitigation

Our first goal is to identify the cause and extent through an initial assessment of the damage that has or is taking place when we arrive at your site. Once these factors are determined we secure the property and contain the damage to keep it from spreading. Work is concentrated on cleaning and drying out affected areas.

Remediation Process

Once mitigation has been performed, our teams work quickly to remove damaged materials and microbial growth from within the affected area, readying the space for the third and final step.

Reconstruction Efforts

First Onsite will estimate and deliver a scope of work based on the needed repairs. Once the scope is agreed upon, materials are ordered, a schedule is put in place, and our construction team restores your property to its before-crisis state.


Organizations to Get Involved with

For kamaʻāina unaffected by a hurricane that wish to assist with recovery, here is a short list of organizations you can get involved with.


While hurricanes are a seasonal occurrence, there should never be a time when you’re not prepared. While hurricanes don’t occur on our islands every year, we know we will see one again, and the impact has the potential to be catastrophic.

  • Staying Prepared Throughout the Year

  • Understand Island-Specific Preparedness

  • Know Your Nearest Safe Places and Evacuation Routes

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