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We are fortunate here, on Oahu, to have many beautifully designed and Historically Significant Homes, for sale and otherwise. We hope to show you some of these fine Oahu homes, spotlight Hawaii Architects and Interior Designers, from time-to-time, and keep you abreast of what is happening in Oahu real estate, Kailua Real Estate, Honolulu Real EstateKaneohe Real Estate and Hawaii Kai Real Estate, and North Shore Real Estate, as well as showcasing the Hawaii Lifestyle and some of the fun Activities, Places and Events on Oahu.


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Oahu Real Estate | Is Your Oahu Home Hurricane Safe?


Oahu hurricane safety is at top of mind now, especially as we are in the midst of hurricane season, here, in Hawaii, and given the hurricane disasters we are witnessing in Houston, Florida, and the rest of the Southeast mainland. Today is also exactly 25 years from the date that Hurricane Iniki devasted the island of Kauai.

It is not as scary as it sounds: “only three hurricanes have made landfall in the past 60 years: Hurricane Iniki (1992), Hurricane Iwa (1982), and Hurricane Dot (1959).  Recently, Tropical Storm Iselle (2014) did make landfall on the Big Island, but had been downgraded to a tropical storm before impacting,” This storm was still very costly, in terms of damage and despair to Hawaii residents. “Hurricane Iniki (a Category 4 hurricane) has remained to date the largest hurricane and natural disaster that has struck the Hawaiian Islands.”* 

Hurricanes are typically a risk during the hurricane season - June 1 until November 30 - and more so in El Nino years. However, in Hawaii, we normally experience storms of lesser degrees —- tropical storms and tropical depressions —- not hurricanes, where the wind strength increases substantially. A very serious hurricane is still possible, without much warning, so hurricane safety on Oahu and tropical storm safety, in general, should always be taken seriously.


You may be asking yourself is my Oahu home hurricane safe? or is the Oahu real estate I am about to purchase hurricane safe? That is a difficult question to answer without seeking some expert assistance, because many factors will affect the answer including, of course, the severity of the hurricane. Your Oahu REALTOR can’t answer these questions, but she can point you in the right direction.

At a minimum, you will want to examine the location of your Oahu home or the Oahu real estate you are purchasing. You may also wish to have a construction professional (such as a licensed contractor, architect, and/or structural engineer) help you examine the home for hurricane safety and stability. You should definitely find out the answers to the following questions:

1) What is the flood zone for this area of Oahu real estate?

Note that a home does not necessarily need to be very near the ocean, a stream, or another body of water to have a greater than average risk of flooding in high rainfall conditions, such as in a hurricane or tropical storm.

2) Is the home close to the beach and/or in a tsunami evacuation zone?

Even if there is no tsumani (these are associated with earthquakes, not hurricanes), high waves and rising sea levels from a hurricane are more likely to impact beach areas in the tsumani evacuation zone. Naturally, inland and higher elevation homes will be impacted less from rising sea levels. These inland areas are, however, impacted by wind and rain, just like the coastal areas.

3) When and how was the Oahu home constructed and/or remodeled? 

What building codes were in place when the home was constructed?  Is the home single or double wall construction? What type of roofing does your Oahu home have? What condition is it in? What type of windows does it have? What type of foundation is it on and how high above ground and sea level is the home? Does your home have hurricane ties or clips? or some other sort of hurricane system? What is the drainage like on your property? All of these factors and others will help determine how well your home will weather a hurricane on Oahu.


If you have already purchased Oahu real estate and are living in your home, there are many things you can physically do to make your home stronger in a hurricane and to enhance hurricane safety, protecting against both high winds and water intrusion. Most Oahu homes built prior to the early to mid-1990’s are vulnerable in various areas, especially single wall construction homes. I found a helpful resource online regarding retrofitting existing Oahu homes for enhanced hurricane safety called Guide to Hurricane Strengthening for Hawaii Single-Family Residences (2016), which is published by the State of Hawaii DCCA. It is most important to establish a continuous load between the roof, framing members, and foundation, and to ensure a water and air resistant envelope by protecting windows and doors.

The good news is that some of these preventative measures for safety in a hurricane (such as hurricane ties/clips and pre-assembled window coverings) can be relatively inexpensive. Share this guide with your licensed contractor, architect, or structural engineer and ask them to help you inspect and modify your home, as necessary.


You can also be better prepared for a hurricane on Oahu by having hurricane (aka windstorm) insurance AND flood insurance. 

Windstorm or Hurricane Insurance on Oahu

When many people think of insurance for damage caused by hurricanes, they typically will think of Hurricane Insurance. What many people do not know is that hurricane insurance is actually only “windstorm insurance.” 

Hurricane coverage is intended to cover WIND damage and generally, will NOT cover WATER/FLOOD damage from a hurricane, unless directly caused by the wind damage. 

This fact may be the very most important take-away from this blog post. For example, if a hurricane blows your roof off, allowing rain to come in, the water damage, in this case, probably would be covered since it is a result of the wind damage. However, if a hurricane brings heavy rains, and water from a nearby stream rises as a result, flooding your house, the water damage from this flood would NOT be covered. Here is a brochure, from the State of Hawaii Insurance Division of the DCCA, covering these issues briefly. Again, consult with your insurance agent for specifics on your own coverage and with detailed questions, as factual situations vary, and policies vary and can change from time-to-time.

Flood Insurance for Hurricanes

In some areas of high flood risk, flood insurance is mandatory and you cannot get a loan to purchase Oahu real estate without it.  But as stated above, flood insurance may also be a wise investment in other areas of Oahu, as much of the damage from a hurricane can be caused by flooding, and not wind, as we have seen in Houston.

Here are some general resources about flood insurance and what is and what is not covered by your regular homeowners’ hazard policy - you should always check with your own agent, however, because policies may vary:

Consumer Reports - What Flood Insurance Does and Does Not Cover

Nolo Press - Hurricanes and Flood Insurance, What Homeowners Should Know

Key Differences Between Homeowners Insurance and Flood Insurance


This blog is intended to focus on what you can do to protect your home and to ensure the physical stability and safety of your Oahu home in a hurricane, along with flood and wind insurance to rebuild and repair, if necessary. These are things you should consider doing now, before there is any real immediate threat of a hurricane.

However, I would be negligent to not mention hurricane preparedness: the items you should stock in advance of a hurricane threat, the emergency saftey information you should know, and the procedures you should follow, in the event of an actual hurricane threat. I could write a whole separate blog post on this, but won’t. I will instead point you to some resources that I find helpful, because there are many that are good, and they will be updated more frequently than this article.

Central Pacific Hurricane Center - Shows the tropical cyclone activity in our region

Hawaii State Emergency Management Agency - Information on strengthening your home against damage from the hazards (earthquake, hurricane, tsunami) that face our community.

Preparing your Family - Guidance for making an emergency plan, and helping children, elderly, and those with disabilities, etc.

Hurricane Shelters in Hawaii

City and County of Honolulu Department of Emergency Management - information about planning and preparing, and Evacuation in the case of an disaster.

I hope this brief summary and list of resources is helpful to you, in achieving hurricane safety and preparedness, as to your Oahu home.

~ With Aloha,

Yvonne Ahearn RB-20262 ~ Home Shoppe Hawaii LLC

* Citing Guide to Hurricane Strengthening for Single Family Residences (2016), Hawaii State DCCA,  page 10.

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