Hurricane Iniki was the most powerful hurricane to strike the state of Hawaii and the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, and one of the most costly hurricanes in the United States. Its eye passed directly over the island of Kauai on September 11, 1992, causing six deaths and more than USD $3 billion of damage.
Iniki (Hawaiian for Enid) formed on September 5, 1992 from an area of disturbed weather southwest of Baja California. The depression began to strengthen and was given a name by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. On September 8, it continued to intensify and increased its westward motion in response to a subtropical ridge shifting southward. It was upgraded to a hurricane 470 miles south-southeast of Hilo, Hawaii.
Iniki continued to move on a west-northwestward course around the western edge of a subtropical ridge that normally keeps hurricanes away from the islands. This ridge was now weakening as a trough began to dig southward along the International Date Line.
At 5 a.m. HST on September 10, Iniki was 425 miles south of Honolulu. In response to some steering flow changes around the Date Line, Iniki turned more northerly and slowed its forward speed. Reconnaissance (recon) aircraft reported winds of 100 kt (115 mph) and a central pressure of 951 millibars (28.08 inches of mercury).
While still south of the islands, Iniki slowed even more and began to turn more north-west. Iniki was located about 400 miles south of Lihue at about 5 p.m. HST on September 10. The storm strengthened and maximum winds were now estimated at 110 mph with higher gusts. A hurricane watch had been issued for the western Hawaiian Islands chain from Kauai and Niihau westward to French Frigate Shoals.
With time, these watches were upgraded to warnings as Iniki's forward speed increased during the evening of September 10. Also, at 8:30 p.m. a tropical storm warning was issued for Oahu, and a tropical storm watch was issued for Maui, Lanai, and Molokai. As Iniki's direction turned toward the north, the hurricane warning was extended to include Oahu at about 11 p.m. HST on September 10.
At 11:00 a.m. September 11, Iniki was located about 130 miles south of Lihue moving north at 15 knots. Maximum sustained winds were estimated at 125 mph with gusts to 150 mph. A recon flight measured a central pressure of 938 mb (27.70 inches of mercury) and maximum flight-level winds of 135 kts (155 mph).
At 3:30 p.m. HST on September 11, the storm made landfall on the southern coast of Kauai, with maximum winds of 140 mph with higher gusts, making Iniki a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. After passing over Kauai, Iniki rapidly accelerated north-eastward and became extratropical, with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center issuing its final advisory at 8:00 a.m. HST September 13.
The damage on Kauai was extensive. Over fourteen thousand homes were either damaged or destroyed, with many losing their roofs or flattened entirely. Hotels and condominiums facing the ocean were also damaged. The economy also took a hit as sugar cane, banana, and papaya plants were either stripped or severely set back. Electric power and telephone service had also been lost, and those took months to be restored.
Six deaths are attributed to Iniki, along with a hundred injuries.
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