Residents of Kaua'i got a devastating lesson in El Niņo physics on Nov. 23, 1982, when Iwa, a Category 1 hurricane, formed in waters warmed by El Niņo weather conditions and slammed into the northwestern side of the Garden Isle. The edge of the hurricane also swept along the Wai'anae Coast.
Packing winds of up to 110 mph, Iwa sent roofs flying, toppled small aircraft, downed power lines and forced the evacuation of 7,000 people.
Three deaths were attributed to the violent storm: a Navy man broke his neck when he hit a safety cable after a large wave rocked his ship, and two women were killed in a traffic accident caused by malfunctioning traffic lights.
On Kaua'i, more than 6,000 people were forced from their homes by powerful winds and record-high waves. Tourists were moved to temporary shelters as the waves flooded hotels on the south shore.
As The Advertiser reported the next day, "Gusts grew ever stronger past nightfall, each blast tearing free tree limbs and building parts. The wailing, booming wind was accompanied by the harsh grating of roofing iron on pavement and the tearing sound of trees being ripped apart."
Electrical failures left all of Kaua'i and nearly all of O'ahu without electricity for several hours. It would take weeks for power to be restored in all areas.
On O'ahu, residents of the Wai'anae Coast were stranded when Farrington Highway was closed because of high surf and debris.
The impact of the hurricane also underscored Hawai'i's geographic isolation. All of the major television stations and every radio station on Kaua'i and O'ahu were off the air. Phone and data communications between islands and with the Mainland were cut for several hours, and airports on both islands were shut down.
Within days, Gov. George Ariyoshi declared Kaua'i, O'ahu and Ni'ihau major disaster areas; President Reagan also declared the state a federal disaster area. The earliest estimates put the damage at upwards of $20 million. The final tally would be nearly $200 million.