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Only in Hawaii: Tsunami 2010

By Marsha Joyner

Isn’t technology wonderful! You can see our TV 6,000 miles away.  And Facebook brings everyone within a keystroke.

Just before the late evening news in Hawaii, my husband Kenneth said, “a tremendous 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile.”

“That’s awful,” I responded and went to bed thinking no more of it.

Until 5:20am my cell phone rang and rang and rang---“Oh damn, nobody calls this time of morning unless it is bad news.” By the time I was fully aware the landline rang. “Yes Scott, no Scott---thank you Scott” Kenneth said and promptly turned on the TV. We have a Tsunami warning because of the earthquake in Chile.”

“Oh dear, I must get Kaspar’s (the cat) carrying case . . . do we have enough fresh water. . .I hate canned foods. . . etc,” I began the emergency check list in my head. Knowing full well that we have everything. Living next to the water demands a level of preparedness that most people do not have to deal with.

HoneyGirl (the dog) was breathing heavy next to the bed and Kaspar (the cat) was standing on my chest daring me to open my eyes. What a way to awake from a dream. Or am I still dreaming? No, this is real!

The TV news was showing lines at the gas stations and it was still dark. Local residents were scrambling to stock up on water, gas and food as sirens pierced the early morning quiet across the islands ahead of the tsunami. Some stations had enough gas, but other stations reportedly ran out. At supermarkets, residents stocked up on essentials like rice, water and toilet paper in anticipation of the high waters. The TV repeatedly ran the picture of a sign at a store limiting families to two cases of Spam. A must in every local menu.

My first of many calls was to Marilyn, my daughter, to warn her... “Damn!” The sleepy voice on the other end of the phone said. “Mom what a wake up call. Thanks Mom, I’ll get my young’ens together. Aaron is at the airport leaving for a class trip to America and Ashley has to go to class today.” They live at the top of a step hill in Maile, a very safe place to ride out a Tsunami. The home has an unobstructed view of the ocean. It’s about 50 miles from me as the crow flies. But then we have no crows. And I really don’t know how crows fly.

Speaking of birds. There was not the usual morning lyrical rhythms of the birds. Except for the TV news, there was not a sound to be heard. Peering through the darkness, the water was flat and the trees were still. The first rays of the sun were creeping up over Haunauma Bay. This was looking more and more like the twilight zone.

Just at 6:01 am, sirens pierced the silences across Hawaii as promised leading up to the first tsunami arrival at 11:32 am on Saturday---the water began to move in a most unusual way. No waves---just energy. A tsunami advisory was announced shortly after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan's Ryukyu Islands. Like some action movie, I was sure the earth was going to break into pieces.

Civil Defense issued repeated commands. Everyone was told to check the phone book maps to see if you lived in a flood prone area. I did not need the phone book---just look out the window. Yes, we live in an inundation zone. Therefore we had to evacuate. That meant moving to higher ground. The City busses were sent to get everyone evacuated. Even the homeless living on the beaches in tents were taken care of. No one was left behind.

“Happy Tsunami Day” one friend chirped on the phone. In true local fashion---friends and family alike called to offers us love and an elevated place to stay. One friend called to warn another friend and another friend and still another. It was a marvelous relay.

Huddled with all of the high muka muka’s at the Civil Defense headquarters deep in the recesses of Diamond Head Crater, the Managing Director of the City & County of Honolulu, Kirk Caldwell, acting Mayor, while Mayor Mufi was in Washington, DeCeit, said all of the major Streets and Roads to beaches and other low-lying areas were to be closed by 10am. Seaside hotels moved guests to higher ground. Therefore evacuation must be complete by that time. “Urgent action should be taken to protect lives and property” the warning center said, “All shores are at risk no matter which direction they face. Do not go into the ocean---there will be no one to help you if you get into trouble." The warnings were repeated all morning long.

HoneyGirl, the gentlest, quiet dog in the whole world was unusually restless and making noises. Kaspar was moving from window to doors watching for something outside. My friend Cindy said the animals were just crazy at her place. I took my cue from them and got serious about making plans to leave. We had stayed behind for two previous hurricanes because we could not take the pets with us. Since Katrina, the world watched with horror as pets were left; the rules about shelters have changed.

Everyone followed the directions of the Governor, the County Mayors, Civil Defense, Fire & Police. Just a little after 11:00am all first responders were sent home to take care of their own families. Everyone was prepared for the worst and prayer for the best.

Driving up to the higher grounds of Koko Head District Park, which is the east side of an extinct volcano, we passed only one car on the road.

People moved to higher ground with their tents, chairs and barbeque. The roads leading to Ocean lookouts all around the Island were lined with tailgaters. That was neat. People were talking to each other, making friends, playing games, listening to the radios and of course; Twitter & Facebook had their place. Most people were enjoying the beauty of the day. Organizations, which had planned Hulihuli chicken sales as fundraisers, took the event to the top of the Pali Lookout and sold out. They made a killing. The Kamehemeha School Ho’olaula’a was held at the top of the highest mountain on Oahu, it was a huge success. Only in Hawaii!

Beaches that would normally be crowded with sunbathers at midday on a Saturday were deserted. From our vantage point, we could see the flotilla of naval, commercial and recreational vessels lining the horizon seeking safe waters a couple of miles off the shore.

By 1:30pm the waves had not reached more than 3 feet with no danger to life, limb or property. HoneyGirl had finally laid down comfortably on the grass and Kaspar was asleep in the carrying case. The food had been consumed, the coffee had was getting cold and the drinks warm. It was time to go. Hawaii’s short sojourn into the twilight zone was pau!

It is hard to believe that a day as filled with such joy could be at the expense of the many people who have suffered and died in one of Chile’s worst earthquakes. May they rest in peace.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • taylor March 1, 2010, 3:29 am

    :-) very enjoyable.

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