Hurricane Katrina's devastation has forced civil defense officials and homeowners to face the fact that a similar disaster could easily strike the Islands someday. If no other good comes from such a disaster, it will at least press people to protect buildings by installing reinforcements such as hurricane clips and prepare their families for an emergency.
Prompted by last year's catastrophic tsunami in Asia, lawmakers took some crucial steps toward enhancing Hawai'i's hurricane and tsunami preparedness. Among the provisions of the new law are funds to construct additional shelter space or retrofit old shelters. The state desperately needs more safe havens for citizens who must evacuate, sometimes with little notice, and who, unlike Mainlanders, cannot drive to safety.
And it includes a welcome incentive for homeowners to create mini-shelters within their own homes. Such "safe rooms" can be built with grants that finance 35 percent of the construction costs.
While it's refreshing to see leaders work proactively rather than reacting to a crisis, there's one distressing aspect: The money for this measure — an estimated $6 million per year — will come from the state Hurricane Reserve Trust Fund. This was the major reason that Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the bill, arguing that the money should have come from the general fund.
Lawmakers were right to override the veto: A hurricane fund can reasonably be expected to support such measures. But next session they should move to replenish the fund, which must not be allowed to dwindle. The state must be prepared to recover from a calamity on the order of Hurricane Katrina. It's just a matter of time, and we must be ready.