HONOLULU -- Hurricane Iwa slammed into the northern Hawaiian Islands with 110-mph winds today, wreaking havoc ashore, battering Navy vessels in huge waves at sea and smashing into a private island whose fate remained unknown. One sailor died and four others were injured.
One Navy officer was flung overboard and swam two miles to shore and safety.
On land, the furious winds tore up trees roofs and power lines and forced thousands for flee their homes. The storm brushed Honolulu on Oahu Island, ravaged the island of Kauai where 5,800 residents fled to shelters and scored a direct hit on the privately owned small island of Niihau.
The naval casualties were aboard the guided missile destroyer USS Goldsborough, which had joined a squadron of 15 vessels leaving the Pearl Harbor Naval Base on Tuesday to avoid the hurricane.
A naval spokesman said the 4,500-ton ship was caught in the heavy hurricane winds just outside the port as it was headed for the open sea. He said other vessels also were caught in the winds but made no immediate damage reports.
One of the injured on the Goldsborough was Lt. j.g. Ray Beard who was tossed overboard, swam two miles in rough seas and was washed ashore on a reef and rescued. He was hospitalized with a broken hand and leg and listed in satisfactory condition at Tripler Army Medical Center.
The Goldsborough only hours before had returned to port after six months at sea, the spokesman said. Its 20 officers and 320 crewmembers had been met at the dock by 150 wives, family and friends.
On Oahu, 1,000 residents fled from their homes near Honolulu where huge waves crashed ashore and winds tore away roofs and knocked out communications.
'We still have not re-established communication with that area, but we do know there is substantial damage,' Oahu Civil Defense spokeswoman Mary Clarose said.
Two police cars were washed into the ocean as they evacuated residents from the Makaha area on Oahu Tuesday night and a city bus was knocked off a highway by a giant wave, Ms. Clarose said. Surprisingly, no one was injured, she said.
One woman was injured on Kauai in a fall not directly related to the hurricane and was in critical condition but elsewhere on the hard-hit island, 'miraculously, there are no serious injuries reported so far,' civil defense official Barbara Daley said.
But 'we are concerned about the island of Niihau,' Ms. Daley said. Niihau, a 24 by 6 miles island northwest of Kauai, is the privately owned ranch of Hawaii's powerful Robinson family who allow no visitors and maintain private communications inaccessible even to official agencies.
The eye of Iwa made a direct hit on Niihau with winds measured by the U.S. Weather Service at 110-115 mph.
Ms. Daley said civil defense officials planned to fly over the island as soon as possible to assess damage.
After striking Hawaii, Iwa spun off to the northeast and was diminishing in force as it headed in the direction of the California coast.
Millions of dollars in damage was feared, mostly on the island of Kauai, where power lines were down and trees blocked all major streets. Roofs were blown away and hundreds of windows were smashed, Barbara Daly of the Kaauai Civil Defense corps said. She said 5,800 residents were moved to schools and other sturdy shelters from low-lying areas subject to flooding and tidal waves.
A blackout was in effect on Kauai and 90-per-cent power failures plagued Oahu including parts of Honolulu. Much of the telephone service between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland was out for several hours.
Inter-island air services were shut down. Honolulu Airport stayed open, but several airlines canceled scheduled flights to Hawaii.
National Weather Service spokesman Tom Tinker at San Francisco said Iwa 'will be dying out' in the Pacific 800 miles from the California Coast, though some cloud cover and rain left over from the hurricane may be detectable on the mainland.
Officials lifted the hurricane watch and warnings for all the islands. But a high-wind warning remained in effect for the whole chain.
Forecaster Thomas Kawamoto said, 'The severest portion of the storm appears to have passed the islands.'