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Think About The Reality Of Post-Disaster Hawaii, Then Prepare For It

April 28, 2019

From the Honolulu Civil Beat website

The 2019 hurricane season begins on Wednesday and runs through November 30. You will see the local television stations and the newspaper covering hurricane preparation. But over the years, reporting never really covers some of the realities of the post-disaster.

Hurricane Lane (2018) | click to enlarge

While Hawaii has been at the forefront of clean energy policy in recent years, this 2019 legislative session is turning out to be a colossal failure in terms of actually preventing and preparing for climate change.

We know the risk is huge. Up until 2014, the only hurricanes to hit Hawaii in my lifetime were Iwa (1982) and Iniki (1992). But in the last five years, there have been nine tropical storms or hurricanes which have hit, or come very close to hitting, Hawaii. That is because the increase in ocean temperatures in Hawaii waters over the last five years is fueling more tropical storms and hurricanes.

Hurricanes Lane and Olivia last year hopefully scared most of us straight in terms of being personally prepared for the next major natural disaster. That is good, but what about the fundamental structures of our community that we all rely on?

Our systems for survival — like delivering water, removing waste, providing shelter and medical care — do not seem at all ready. We are about as prepared for the next major natural disaster as Puerto Rico was when Hurricane Maria hit.

But we can learn from Puerto Rico’s experience and get prepared now. The key is moving past the self-congratulating, vague commitments to long-term goals and digging in to invest in real resiliency. There is so much to be done:

Please note that here in Hawai‘i, we need to stock water and supplies for at least 14 days. Most government websites recommend 3 days, and that is a reasonable supply if you live on the continental United States. Hawai‘i remains dependent on container ships that take a minimum of 7 days to get to Hawai‘i from Oakland or Los Angeles.

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