Friday, March 11, 2011

Evacuated: Tsunami Warning in the Pacific

The world is a crazy place, predictably unpredictable on our entire journey.  That continued last night, when across the sea Japan was rocked by an incredible seabed earthquake measuring 9 or so on the scale, and setting off a tsunami towards not only the shores of Japan but outward across the ocean, with Hawaii in the middle of the path.  The warnings came across the television at 9pm, and within an hour a full evacuation order was called with the waves forecast for 3am.  The sirens were sounding. "Please leave this area immediately. You must leave the Tsunami Evacuation Zone.  Go to high ground.  Do not return to your homes.  This is not a test."

Well, with all the close calls we have had, we certainly we not taking any chances with our family.  Yes, we are inland, probably 50ft in elevation in the middle of the ancient lava flows, and cannot see the ocean from our condo.  We are also occupying the second and third floors of the complex, so highly unlikely this unit would be flooded.  But truly, if the roads were closed, would we really wish to become an island in a stream of broken sewage with no access to fresh water in the heat?  Short answer, no.  Not imminent danger, but not a place to be stranded for long either.  I have no wish to be rescued from a rooftop because we were too stubborn to follow the evacuation order.  So we started to pack.

A quick trip past the grocery, open til 11, to stock up on bottled water (lots of action there) and we headed up the only road out of our complex and up the hill to Waikaloa Village.  Hundreds of cars loaded with tourists and locals, and busses of people from the resorts, converged on the inland towns to sleep uncomfortably and anxiously in the dark, while the radio broadcast the warnings and updates from Midway Island, as well as the effects on the first islands to be affected: Kauai and Oahu are west of here, so would be hit first.

The tsunami was not a false alarm.  The waves did come at around 4 am to the Big Island, and there was limited damage south of our resort in Kona (okay, specifically, the Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory where we had lunch was one of the worst ones hit).  Hilo had a few houses flooded and one floated away, but no one was killed or injured, so we escaped far better off than those souls in Japan across the sea.  Like Christchurch, crushed by earthquake, and then hit by tsunami, hundreds are feared killed. The Pacific Ring of Fire has been cruel this year.

The evacuation remained in place even after the real risk of the sea was passed.  Our resort was baracaded by police officers, and we could not return at least until dawn.  Not much sleep happened in the minivan, well, I suppose the kids fared alright, by the parents were still pretty tired.  We made our way up to Waimea and the Paniola restaurant, which opened for the crowd of "refugees" at 5:30a with welcome cups of coffee and warm breakfasts.  Fellow patrons joked we needed t-shirts to claim our survival of the Hawaii Tsunami 2011, but it was with true relief that we heard the damage was pretty minimal.  Memories of Phuket, the images of the cyclones and floods in Queensland and Victoria, and the scenes from Christchurch ran through my mind, and I thanked God we were not in a midst of such a scene.  It was only when we returned to our condo that we realized the severity of Japan's situation.  Our hearts are glad we had only a close call, but are heavy with the loss experienced by those who were closer to where the wave began.

1 comment:

  1. Whew ~~ what a relief to know that you are all safe. It's time to come home; you've had far too many close calls. However, I'm sure your pleasant experiences have far out weighed these inconvieniences. Port Alberni also had a warning, but the water was no higher than a big storm ~~ lots of rain though.
    Much love & do keep safe.
    Uncle Jack & Auntie Donna xxoo