It's not every day a traveler has to deal with a hurricane -- especially when vacationing in the South Pacific. My first brushes with one were exciting in a way, but tedious in most respects.
I've experienced a number of "natural disasters" in my life, ranging from significant earthquakes while living in California to brush fires that were close to our home. And, of course, Canada is known for its blizzards and severe cold weather. But I've never had to deal with extremes of tropical weather before.
(churning surf heralds the arrival of Hurricane Ana)
While attending a medical meeting on the Big Island of Hawaii, I became aware that tropical storm Ana was forming and gaining strength hundreds of miles southeast of the Big Island and moving on a course that would hit the south shore of the Big Island exactly on the day I wanted to fly from Kona to Kauai, the next island stop on this trip (and the beginning of my vacation). Not being one to procrastinate, I immediately called Hawaiian Airlines and had our flights rescheduled to leave a day earlier than originally planned, allowing me a day's buffer to get away from the Big Island before the worst weather would hit and potentially ground all air travel (disrupting my travel plans for who knows how long). Rooms and car rentals had to be rearranged, but I thought we could just bunker down on Kauai where we'd be staying for most of a week.
The most annoying thing about these darned weather disturbances is that you don't know how bad they'll be or exactly where they'll move to next. Forecasts are far from an accurate prediction of the future, as I was to about find out, and the media (besides being generally dishonest) love to promote a feeling of doom and hysteria, and that certainly was the case with Ana, which had been upgraded from Tropical Storm to Category I hurricane status.
(travelers stand on the south shore of Kauai, watching the raging surf and approaching clouds of Hurricane Ana)
Come Friday morning we (my brother, father and I) caught our flights from the Big Island to Lihue, transferring in Honolulu. It was a warm beautiful day on Kauai, not at all windy, and everything went swimmingly well. We enjoyed several nice days on Kauai while Ana kept changing where she was supposed to go, ultimately veering far south from the Big Island (but hitting its coast with strong tropical storm force winds and heavy rain) and began heading towards Oahu and Kauai.
(surfers enjoy the big waves as Hurricane Ana approaches)
On our second day we visited the south shore of Kauai, beautiful as is all of this island (more on that in future posts). In the evening we could feel the wind intensify and the waves started crashing onto shore with force and height, spraying a salty mist on those gathering to watch. Ana was introducing herself to us, and she had a way of drawing hundreds to the island's shore to just stand and watch. The following two video clips share with you what we saw the day before she was to show us her full force.
(Hurricane Ana causes storm surges, south shore of Kauai)
(The Spouting Horn, South shore, especially dramatic as Ana approaches)
Saturday evening our hotel (on the east shore of the island) started preparing for the hurricane -- moving chairs and tables indoors and closing usual poolside activities. Saturday night would be telling. Hurricane Ana was just 100 miles southeast of Kauai and moving about a dozen miles an hour. There was some concern it would change its path from westerly to northerly, and directly hit Kauai just as Hurricane Iniki had changed path in 1992. Iniki was a category 4 hurricane, carrying a 145 miles per hour (233 km/h) punch. In comparison, Ana was a Category 1 hurricane, with continuous winds of 85-90 mph. That's much less damaging than a Category 4 storm but can still cause significant problems. The media were certainly playing up this angle to the fullest.
(the skies darken as Hurricane Ana approaches and the surf roars, as does the Spouting Horn on Kauai's south shore in the lower photo)
Saturday night would be decisive. Rather than worry, we slept remarkably soundly and woke up the next morning to a hotel with continuing electrical power (a good omen I thought). It seems Ana had passed south and west of Kaui, staying on her original course and continuing west by northwest towards the Asian continent, sure to die in a few days.
Sunday was a very windy and wet day on Kauai, raining continuously all day. Fortunately this is the "Garden Island" (home to the wettest place on earth), so lush and green because of how much rain it usually gets, that its rivers and roads were able to cope with this moisture. The surf had 10 foot swells, mostly breaking out over the coral reefs and providing a fun ride to the many surfers who came out to enjoy it.
So we dodged most of the ill effects of Hurricane Ana, except the inconvenience it caused. We did see just a small amount of nature's raw power. I'm well aware that it could have been far worse and caused us significant delay and even physical damage, and am grateful it didn't. It was an unusual travel experience but interesting to be involved with first hand. I'm always humbled by the power of mother nature and how little we puny humans can do to deal with it.
There's a number of photos included with this text, whose legends you can see by holding your mouse over the image or clicking on the thumbnails below. I hope these photos share with you part of our experiences.
(Heavy rain and strong surf -- enjoyed by the surfers in the lower photo)