LOS ANGELES - Planeloads of relief crews and supplies poured into the Hawaiian island of Kauai yesterday, as state and federal officials continued their clean-up effort after Hurricane Iniki's attack on Friday.
The intensity of Iniki, compared by some to last month's Hurricane Andrew, caused widespread damage on Kauai. Initial estimates suggested destruction or harm to over half the homes and buildings on the island.
Iniki's damage toll could reach $1 billion, local and state officials said. Insurance proceeds and emergency aid will cover part of that total. President Bush has declared the northern Hawaiian islands a federal disaster area.
Municipal market participants said it would take a few days to assess the impact on local and state finances in Hawaii.
George Leung, vice president and managing director of state ratings at Moody's Investors Service, noted yesterday that his firm has not had a chance to talk to state officials yet. He expected, however, to speak soon with Hawaii's bond counsel at Hawkins, Delafield & Wood.
Hawaii's finance director and other finance officials could not be reached for comment yesterday. Many were in meetings as the state reacted to the fallout from Friday's natural disaster.
Despite Iniki's intensity, only three deaths were initially confirmed. Injuries totaled about 100, local officials said.
Damage was less intense than it could have been because the full force of the hurricane narrowly missed the island of Oahu. Oahu, which includes Honolulu, is more densely populated and developed than Kaual.
Kauai, often called the Garden Island, has experienced more development in recent years. But even with new resorts, Kauai maintains a more rural character.
From a municipal finance standpoint, "we're probably not talking about a lot of bond issues to begin with" in connection with the island itself, noted Richard Ciccarone, senior vice president and manager of fixed-income research at Kemper Securities Group Inc.
But municipal analysts likely will examine the potential effects of the hurricane on Hawaii's tourism industry, which helps underpin state revenues.
A state-by-state economic trend report that Kemper expects to release within a week will show a weakening trend in Hawaii, based on its second-quarter performance this year compared to last year, Mr. Ciccarone said.
But Hawaii's economy remains relatively healthy compared to many other states. For example, Kemper will note in its report that the weakening trend is caused partly by a jump in unemployment, but the state's unemployment rate is still well below national averages, another Kemper officials said.
The reconstruction effort following the hurricane also could provide a stimulus for the economy, analysts noted.