Sharing Mana‘o

Well, this is uncomfortably familiar.

Three Tuesdays ago, as my weekly “Sharing Mana’o” deadline approached, so did Hurricane Lane. The hurricane watch had been upgraded to a warning and, like most Mauians, I had taken the appropriate precautions: filling the car’s gas tank, stocking up on supplies, moving lightweight objects indoors, etc. Now, with Olivia heading our way, I am again preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.

In November 1982, I was living in Honolulu, working as a reporter for KHVH Newsradio 99, and was completely unaware of the concept of hurricane preparedness. When we in the newsroom received the first alert of Hurricane Iwa, most of us scoffed, “We don’t have hurricanes in Hawaii!”

Don Robbs, our news director, corrected us. “Oh yes, we do. It’s just been a while.” He double-checked his memory with a little research and informed us that the islands had been hit 23 years earlier by Hurricane Dot. By the time Dot passed over the Garden Island on Aug. 6, 1959, it had dwindled down to Category 1 but still packed enough wind to inflict minor damage on Kauai and Oahu. “We have to take this seriously,” Don admonished us, and so we conscientiously monitored the storm’s progress and continuously broadcast instructions on how best to prepare for Iwa’s impending arrival.

The brunt of Iwa’s impact came at night; our entire reporting staff worked throughout the ordeal. Fortunately, I had a friend visiting from Maui that week, so she and her boyfriend babysat my 5-year-old in our apartment. The next morning, when I returned home, Jimmy presented me with a drawing of the hurricane. Black swirls surrounded three stick figures — who were all smiling, to my surprise — and a giant “X” within a rectangle. I figured out that the rectangle was the sliding glass door on which my friends had placed masking tape, but I was puzzled by several unidentifiable shapes hovering over the heads of the stick people. “Are those things that got blown around by the wind?” I asked.

“No, Mommy,” he laughed. “Those are my toys.” My friend explained that her boyfriend had used his juggling skills to entertain Jimmy and distract him from the howling wind and rain. “Hurricanes are fun!” exclaimed my little boy.

My night wasn’t fun at all, but it was certainly memorable. The KHVH office and studios were on Bishop Street, in the heart of the city, and I had walked over to City Hall for a Civil Defense briefing. After the press conference, I stepped out of the municipal building and was immediately swept up by the gusting winds. Remarkably, I wasn’t knocked over, but both my feet left the sidewalk for an instant and I felt as though I was walking on air. I guess I was, literally. I’m sure the heavy equipment bag on my shoulder kept me from being blown into a tree or worse. Trudging head down and into the wind, I made it back to the radio station without further incident.

It was the first and only time I’ve ever seen downtown Honolulu virtually shut down. The only lights visible were the blue domes atop the police cars that occasionally passed. Except for the buildings being intact, it looked like a scene from an apocalyptic movie.

Hurricane Iniki slammed into Kauai 10 years after Iwa, exactly 16 years and a day ago. Hopefully, Olivia and the rest of this year’s season will be less devastating than Iniki or Lane.

I miss the good ol’ days, when we didn’t have hurricanes in Hawaii!

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.