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Kaua‘i Resilience Center meeting tonight – weeks after ‘Ele‘ele fire reminded island ‘paradise is a myth’

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The Porter Pavilion at Anaina Hou Community Park. Taken Jan. 19, 2024. Photo Credit: Scott Yunker/Kaua‘i Now

Editor’s Note: Reporter Emma Grunwald contributed to this article.

The recent destruction of an affordable housing project on the West Side of Kaua‘i is a stark reminder that disaster can strike at any time – even in paradise.

That’s according to organizers behind the Kaua‘i Resilience Center, a planned set of three disaster-proof domes at Anaina Hou Community Park in Kīlauea.

“Paradise is a myth. Yes, we live in one of the most special islands on earth, but natural resources are being challenged, investments in disaster structures have never happened … Hurricanes looked different than they do today,” reads a Kaua‘i Resilience Center newsletter published Tuesday. “It is time to come out of the warm haze of ‘nothing bad happens here’ and begin to get down to business of preparing and mitigating the inevitable.”


The Kai Olino affordable housing project – located on Okupu Street in ‘Ele‘ele near Port Allen Harbor – was under construction and unoccupied when one of its two “Phase One” buildings was gutted by fire in the early morning hours of Feb. 25. Rebuilding costs are estimated at $20 million. The cause of the blaze remains unknown and is the subject of a joint investigation between the Kaua‘i Fire Department and the Kaua‘i Police Department, a county official said last week.

Firefighters were dispatched to a report of a structure fire on Okupu Street in ‘Ele‘ele shortly before 12:45 a.m. on Feb. 25. Photo Courtesy: County of Kaua‘i

“We’ve got a housing crisis here … The fact that something like that happens is a setback for everybody,” local American Red Cross Director Padraic Gallagher said of the fire. “That’s where a resiliency center can come into play – ‘How can we help out?'”

The Kaua‘i Resilience Center at Anaina Hou – if built – would serve as an emergency shelter capable of housing between 1,000 and 1,500 individuals in times of crisis. Outside of emergencies, its concrete “monolithic domes” would house units dedicated to public health and safety services; vocational training; and cultural culinary entrepreneurship, food processing and preservation.

“The domes are very, very unique. They withstand 290 mph-plus winds. That’s either a category five hurricane or an F5 tornado. They’re completely fireproof … and highly earthquake resilient,” Jill Lowry, the CEO of the Kaua‘i Resilience Center and Anaina Hou, said in January.


Lowry is now inviting the Garden Isle community to attend the Kaua‘i Resilience Center’s latest monthly informational meeting, to be held tonight at Anaina Hou’s Porter Pavilion. Doors to the event – which will run from 6 to 8 p.m. – will open at 5:30 p.m.

The meeting will feature a light dinner and speakers including Lowry, Gallagher and Kaua‘i Fire Chief Michael Gibson.

“Anytime we can get newer construction that’s reinforced to shelter people during any type of disaster is a benefit, because most of the structures that we have here for shelters are schools. They’re old. They aren’t the best rated,” Gallagher said in support of the Kaua‘i Resilience Center.

A preliminary concept study of the Kaua‘i Resilience Center. Photo Courtesy: Kauairesilience.org

Gallagher said the domes proposed at Anaina Hou would also benefit Kaua‘i before – and after – a disaster occurs.


“Even if we are not in a disaster or post-disaster, that center will function … People can go and get resources, learn about stuff, maybe pick up disaster supplies for a hurricane kit that they might need,” he said. “Everybody has to admit the climate is changing and we don’t know what might come next and how it might come in, whether it’s going to be a lot or little … We can foster or teach the public.”

In the wake of a disaster, the Kaua‘i Resilience Center could operate as an “after-shelter” and base of operations for community feeding, distribution of emergency supplies and casework.

Island residents greeted the Kaua‘i Resilience Center with approval when Lowry debuted plans for the disaster-proof domes in January. To attend tonight’s meeting – or another meeting scheduled later in the year – register online here.

Future advertised speakers include David Lopez of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, who will discuss the vulnerability of island ports in April; and Amos Lonokailua-Hewett of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, who will look back on Lāhainā in May.

Scott Yunker
Scott Yunker is a journalist living on Kauaʻi. His work for community newspapers has earned him awards and inclusion in the 2020 anthology "Corona City: Voices from an Epicenter."
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