On April 1, 1946, a tsunami generated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake originating in the Aleutian Islands struck the Hawaiian Islands. It was the deadliest natural disaster on record in Hawai‘i — 159 people lost their lives in the Territory that day.
Two powerful waves hit Kaua‘i beginning about 6:30 a.m. In their wake, 14 people died, three were missing-presumed dead and seven were hospitalized for injuries. Nine of the dead were small children.
Nearly every dwelling in the makai areas of Ha‘ena, Kalihikai, Kalihiwai, Moloa‘a and Wainiha were totally destroyed or damaged. Anahola, Wailua and Nawiliwili were also hard hit.
At Ha‘ena, a peaceful village of 60 persons, and at neighboring Wainiha, 17 residences were demolished and several homes and buildings were partially damaged. Kalihiwai saw seven homes and stores swept inland and thrown against the pali. To the south at Moloa‘a, a wall of water surged about one-half mile inland wiping out all of Moloa‘a’s nine houses — eight beach houses and the Lovell residence.
Down in Nawiliwili, waves smashed a number of business buildings. Across the way at Kalapaki, Mrs. Charles Rice and her infant son, Robin, were at home when she was warned of the tsunami by Charles Hada, the Rice’s yardman.
When the second wave hit, the house buckled and Rice found herself swimming while holding onto her son. At another point, she recalled placing him on a floating tree trunk. Later, she held on to a branch for dear life.
They were finally rescued by John Aiu and Archie Tanabo, and it is believed that Charles Hada died while trying to save the Rices.
In Ha‘ena, Mrs. Hanohano saved herself and her daughter, Winona, age 3, under similar dreadful circumstances.
The Kaua‘i Red Cross responded soon after the tsunami struck.