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In the Eye of the Storm: Coping with Future Natural Disasters in Hawaii


  • Makena Coffman

    () (Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Hawaii at Manoa
    University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization)

  • Ilan Noy

    () (Department of Economics, University of Hawaii at Manoa)


Hurricane Iniki, that hit the island of Kauai on September 11th, 1992, was the strongest hurricane that hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, and the one that wrought the most damage, estimated at 7.4 billion (in 2008 US$). We provide an assessment of Hawaii’s vulnerability to disasters using a framework developed for small islands. In addition, we provide an analysis of the ex post impact of Iniki on the economy of Kauai. Using indicators such as visitor arrivals and agricultural production, we show that Kauai’s economy only returned to pre-Iniki levels 7-8 years after the storm. Today, it has yet to recover in terms of population growth. As an island state, Hawaii is particularly susceptible to the occurrence of disasters. Even more worrying, Hawaii’s dependence on tourism, narrow export base, high level of imports and relatively small agricultural sector make Hawaii much more likely to struggle to recover in the aftermath. By thoroughly learning from Kauai’s experience and the state’s vulnerabilities, we hope we can better prepare for likely future disaster events.

Suggested Citation

  • Makena Coffman & Ilan Noy, 2009. "In the Eye of the Storm: Coping with Future Natural Disasters in Hawaii," Working Papers 200904, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hai:wpaper:200904

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eduardo Borensztein & Eduardo Cavallo & Patricio Valenzuela, 2009. "Debt Sustainability Under Catastrophic Risk: The Case for Government Budget Insurance," Risk Management and Insurance Review, American Risk and Insurance Association, vol. 12(2), pages 273-294, September.
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    More about this item


    natural disasters; hurricane; Iniki; Kauai; Hawaii; climate change; global warming;

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • R50 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - General

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