Hurricane Katrina – Hard Lessons Learned-How This Natural Disaster, That Devasted Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi is Reaching Hawaii’s Shores

article top

For most of my adult life I have spoken repeatedly of the need to be prepared. I remember a time when I was a young teenager back in the mainland how we were isolated because of a heavy snowstorm. The roads were impassable and were going to stay that way for several more days. We were running out of the necessities – fresh milk for us kids and cigarettes for the adults – now that constituted a real emergency.

My stepfather and I saddled a couple of our hearty Shetland ponies, (who were enjoying the bitter cold and snow) and we rode the 3 miles to the nearest grocery store. Milk, cigarettes and other essentials were obtained and we rode back through the cold and snow. It was another 2 days before the roads were opened up again.


I never forgot that lesson – be prepared.

I’ve been through two hurricanes in Hawaii. I’ve seen the panic on people’s faces before the storms hit. I’ve seen a large Safeway store cleaned out in less that 4 hours – from midnight to 4 am. I’ve seen the bottom of the vegetable bin in the produce department. Think about that, when was the last time you went into a supermarket and not seen a produce department overflowing with fresh fruit and veggies?

I’ve had people laugh in my face when I tell them it’s a good idea to store up food and water. They looked at me like I was insane. “Why would I want to do that?” “There’ll always be food available,” “The government will take care of us.”

That was before two hurricanes hit Hawaii. These same people were the ones in the supermarket scrambling to buy tomorrow’s food. When the hurricanes hit, they were both scared and hungry. That’s a dangerous combination and we’re seeing the results of that right now in New Orleans. Normal, law- abiding citizens are both scared and hungry and they are resorting to looting and killing. Today’s news talks of a man who killed his sister over a bag of ice. Sadly, this won’t be the last incident of this nature.

We are observing two problems in collision here. First, the size of the disaster brought about by the hurricane almost defies definition. Entire cities are shut down. Second, government at all levels is, by its very design, grossly inefficient under normal circumstances and during emergencies becomes even more so! This is one of those times when 1 + 1 equals 3.

There are thousands of people in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi who are scared and hungry. The results are as expected – chaos.

Yet another case for what I have been saying for decades – be prepared.

A few years ago, in 1999, I attended a class, which taught us how to prepare a “72 hour kit.” The idea was to have everything you needed for basic survival – food, water, medicine, clothes, first aid, etc. in a small compact, easily carried pack. It could be a backpack, an old suitcase, duffel bag, anything durable and portable. In case of emergency, you could grab this kit and run. No time wasted finding medications, packing clothes or such. Just open the closet, grab your ‘kit’ and run.

As usual, only a few in the class paid serious attention to what the instructor was saying and fewer still acted on her teaching. What we must all realize is that in times of emergency, it will take several days before government agencies can get to you to provide support. In the meantime, you’re on your own!

Fear + Hunger = Chaos. Surviving a storm is one thing, surviving the chaos and lawlessness afterwards is an entirely different story. Be prepared – make up a 72 hour survival kit today. One for each member of the family. Work with each family member so that they have everything they need in their kit. Show them how to use it and how to keep it up to date.

Many of us living in Hawaii just can’t seem to understand how a disaster thousands of miles away can adversely affect us here days later. The current price of gasoline should give us a quick lesson in supply and demand economics. We must understand that even the food we eat is dependent upon only 12 to 14 Matson ships and 3 ports on the West Coast.

Right now the entire mainland is focused on the problems in the Gulf area – as it should be. But, let’s think about what would happen if a major earthquake should hit California or a terrorist attack should damage Chicago, New York or other mainland city. The crisis would soon become more than what the governments can handle.

Let’s take a moment to consider what would happen here in Hawaii if in the next few days a major earthquake would hit California. There are 3 major West Coast ports – LA, San Francisco and Seattle. Let’s say that LA and San Francisco are severely damaged in a major earthquake. As would be expected, all attention is focused on California. This brings up some serious questions for Hawaii:

* Can Seattle alone continue to supply the Matson ships? Would the Seattle supply houses even answer the phone?

* How long would it take before alternative supplies and transportation of those supplies be established?

In the meantime, what is happening in Hawaii? Fear and hunger. Too many people on this island and not enough food – a very dangerous and deadly combination. It’s long past time that we stopped burying our heads in the sand and started facing facts:

*We must encourage people to get prepared and stay prepared.

*We must become prepared ourselves. It’s long past time to stock up on food, water and needed medications.

*We must insist that local and state governments encourage rather than discourage the growing of our own foods. The current situation of Hawaii being so dependent upon the West Coast for basic food supplies is ludicrous! We have thousands of acres of old pineapple and sugar cane land on Oahu, Molokai, Maui and Hawaii that are sitting idle.

A day may come when we will become painfully aware of our shortsightedness. While it’s fine to raise exotic items for export such as coffee, macadamia nuts, etc. these items will not feed a hungry population. Instead of providing welfare checks for the unemployed on Molokai, why not put them in the truck farming business now. Personally, I’d much rather see my food money go to a Hawaii resident than some farm in the mainland.

We have a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes and shortsightedness of others. The only question is are we going to learn the lesson the easy way or the hard way?

It’s up to us.

”’Dave Wethington is a long-time resident of Hawaii who runs a small business and has survived the government-made recession of the 1990s. He had been a student of economics and a supporter of free enterprise all of his adult life. He believes that the best government is one that is honest, responsive to its citizens and limited in size and scope. He can be reached via email at”’

”’ reports the real news, and prints all editorials submitted, even if they do not represent the viewpoint of the editors, as long as they are written clearly. Send editorials to”’