Winter Swells on Kaua‘i

It seems that Winter has arrived. Hawai‘i has just two discernible seasons, Summer and Winter…or Hot and Cold.

Of course, ‘cold’ is a subjective term. This week the temperature in Princeville dropped to around 60°F in the middle of the night. Since the same week brought blizzards and 6 foot drifts to parts of the mainland, I recognize this is hardly likely to gain much sympathy, but when it feels sufficiently cool to warrant something other than a thin sheet on the bed, that tends to be news around here.

Along with cooler weather, Winter on the north shore brings rougher seas and higher surf, sometimes particularly dangerous and vicious. Drownings are sadly too frequent at this time of year. Most residents quickly learn to respect the winter surf, but visitors don’t always understand the dangers of hidden rip currents or ‘rogue’/sneaker waves.

The huge swells on November 13 triggered a high surf warning along the north and east facing shores, from Ke‘e Beach to Anahola. Steve and I drove out to Lumaha‘i Beach, a beautiful spot to witness nature at its finest. The impressive seas had drawn a small crowd, both residents and visitors.

At one point we noticed a couple close to us; a husband was attempting to capture a photo of his wife with the waves crashing behind her. He appeared to be waiting for the perfect moment, the one memorable shot.

The largest sets of waves can be some minutes apart, so we heard him tell his wife to be patient, but each time he was about to press the shutter on a sufficiently impressive set, she heard the almighty crash of surf behind her and leapt out of the way. She had my sympathy! When the large sets come through, the surf will encroach many feet further onto the beach, and can easy whip your legs from under you if you’re not watching.

With each attempt he became more exasperated with her. He seemed a bit of a jerk, but who am I to judge…could be he was a lot smarter than he looked…could be he’d recently taken out a life insurance policy on her and was looking for a quick claim! 😉 I suggested she offer to have him stand on the shoreline and for her to take the photo! She appreciated the joke, he didn’t!

Later that day, I was volunteering with my friend Alice at the Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge; our regular Wednesday afternoon slot. In between chatting with a record crowd of visitors who were awestruck by the Point and views, I captured some more video of the swells, and of our less dependable and lesser known north shore equivalent of Po‘ipū’s Spouting Horn.

20 Years on from Hurricane Iniki

This week marked the 20th anniversary of the day Hurricane Iniki struck Kauai and caused massive destruction across the island.

We knew of Iniki before we moved here, and we viewed several clips on YouTube showing the power of the hurricane, both during and after, but we learned much more this week from a local TV station, KGMB, which replayed a news broadcast from that day in 1992 that brings home the trauma that the islanders suffered, especially due to the lack of warning, something that has evidently been improved upon in recent years with advances in technology.

I was fascinated to see the path that Iniki took (and why), since it at first appeared to be skirting the Hawaiian islands relatively harmlessly to the south, as it grew in intensity from a tropical storm, but then took a disastrous turn north.

Another KGMB news segment this week recalled the aftermath of that day, but focused on the tremendous community spirit at the time, and how well the island has recovered since.

We were aware of the risk of hurricanes when we bought our home here. The hurricane season typically runs from June to November (though these days there doesn’t seem to be anything typical about the weather anywhere in the world), and the community is frequently encouraged to be prepared – know of evacuation routes, maintain food and water reserves, etc. – but it’s not something that overshadows our day-to-day lives. It’s not much different from living in an earthquake zone, as we did in California where we were perched almost on top of the San Andreas faultline. We’ve simply traded one of Mother Nature’s risks for another.

However, it’s comforting to know that our current home was locally dubbed ‘The Shelter’ when it was built, immediately after Iniki swept through. [Incidentally, while there are several evacuation centers, such as school halls, provided for visitors, there simply isn’t enough room for everyone, so, in the event of a hurricane, residents are requested to shelter-in-place! Bummer, that!]

The previous property on this lot was completely destroyed, its roof sheared off and structure so badly damaged and buckled that it was an insurance write-off, so the lot was cleared.

Not surprisingly, the owners had no wish to suffer a repeat performance, and employed an experienced architect and builder, in an attempt to ensure that their replacement home could withstand a similar onslaught.

The house is a single-storey dwelling built into a sloping lot, so that its roofline is way below that of the surrounding houses, with the back supported on 16″ square solid concrete pillars. The roof is tied down with metal hurricane clips at every rafter (as opposed to every 3 or 4 in many houses). In brief, just about everything in this house is over-spec’d as far as hurricane-proofing is concerned.

It’s also wired for a generator. Just a flick of a switch can divert us from the grid to a generator tucked in the over-large crawl space under the back of the house; a crawl space, incidentally, that’s deep enough and tall enough to provide shelter for us, and probably several neighbors too, with plenty of room to store food and water reserves. [The photo shows merely a third of it!]

While I’m not freaked out by the possibility of a hurricane, it’s very reassuring to know that if ever the island-wide alert is issued to shelter-in-place, we have as a good a chance as any, and better than many, of still having a roof over our heads when the storm subsides.

No Rain – No Rainbows! *

I set off with Freya for our usual stroll this morning…opened the door to a gentle passing shower. Not enough to stop us; in fact, rather refreshing!

Turned the corner from Keoniana to Kaweonui and was treated to this!…
Double rainbow

Out at the point, the rainbow was starting to fade, but the moon was still up…

I do love where we live!

* Researching the origin of this popular saying led me to Kimo’s Hawaiian Rules (below). Turns out, according to Lonely Planet, that it’s Kauai’s own Nite Owl T-Shirts that takes credit for bringing together this collection of rules.

Kimo’s Hawaiian Rules

Never judge a day by the weather.
The best things in life aren’t things.
Tell the truth – there’s less to remember.
Speak softly and wear a loud shirt.
Goals are deceptive – the unaimed arrow never misses.
He who dies with the most toys – still dies.
Age is relative – when you’re over the hill, you pick up speed.
There are 2 ways to be rich – make more or desire less.
Beauty is internal – looks mean nothing.
No Rain – No Rainbows

However, we also have G.K. Chesterton to thank for that last one:  And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

Enjoy many more of his best quotes here.