Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami Scare 2011

Aloha Everyone!

I wanted to share with you guys a little bit about the tsunami warning/advisory/watch experience we just had. Last year, we had a tsunami warning due to the devastating earthquake in Chile, which was an 8.8 magnitude quake, 6,859 miles from us. This year, a watch was generated around 9pm, due to a 8.9 earthquake in Japan, 3,861 miles from us.

At first, the government issued a "watch". A watch is much less severe than a warning. It's pretty much just a head's up to avoid swimming in the waters, stay off the shores, etc. Around 9:30pm, they upgraded us to a warning. A warning means we need to follow the evacuation guidelines of the island and move to higher ground if we are in a evacuation zone. This also means the sirens will sound throughout the island to continually warn us there is a tsunami coming. The sirens sounded on most of the island around 9:45 I believe. For some reason, our sirens didn't sound. Instead, they had fire trucks patroling neighborhoods to announce the need to evacuate. This also means that about an hour prior to the tsunami's ETA, they will block roads from both sides leaving the North Shore.

Jon and I just happen to live at the very northern tip of the island, so we are in one of the more vulnerable spots if a tsunami should actually hit. The north and west sides of the island are usually the most vulnerable. So, we packed an emergency bag of clothes, some electronics, valuables, photos and yes, I packed toilet paper. We headed over to my Mom's across the street to meet her, my dad and my sister and head up into Pupukea, which is a very high area.

The tsunami is no joke by any means, but I just have to share with you guys how much my mom cracks me up. Last year, I honestly felt like I was at a tailgate party on top of the mountain. My mom and dad brought their tent, lawn chairs, cheese and wine. It was like a tsunami picnic. This year, when I got to my mom's house, her first priority was to cut up the fudge my dad had made that night. Then, we were loading up a cooler with a 20 lb bag of ice I had left over from our power outage a week ago. She was seriously torn over whether to pack ginger ale or wine because both wouldn't fit. She ended up bringing a bottle of wine and a box of wine, we like to keep it classy. She also packed spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and oatmeal, with nothing to cook it with. She also packed us Mexican Train in case we decided we wanted to play at 3am. At least she stays calm and lighthearted during a scare like this one!

The scariest part of all of it was the coverage we were watching on the local news and At first, we were figuring it was just like last year and they were just taking precautions. Then, we started to hear the reports of the distance difference. Japan is 3,000 miles closer to Hawaii than Chile is. They were also commenting on how last year the direction of the tsunami wave was protected by a natural barrier the island chain had. This year's tsunami was to come from a direction leaving us only protected by the other islands. They were also talking about how the island itself reacts to the waves, causing more damage. It was just plain scary to hear all these reports.

Once we got up into the hills of Pupukea, we turned on KSSK radio, the Perry and Price show. Perry and Price were absolutely amazing. They were contacting government agencies, schools and businesses  to determine any closings they should alert us about. They dealt with the idiots prank calling about Taco Bell not providing them their sauce and questioning what time iHop opened. I spent 22 years in Massachusetts, and the media and state government were rarely on the same page and hardly able to communicate to us efficiently about a 2 foot snowfall. I am so impressed with Hawaii's organization to get us information about evacuations and closings so we can best prepare ourselves in case a tsunami did hit. As scary as a tsunami warning is, we are totally comforted knowing that the State of Hawaii will always get us the information as soon as they receive it to allow us to protect ourselves.

We ended up staying up in the hills a little under 10 hours. We got there around 10:30pm, and left around 8am. Jon and I were in our little VW bug, with the two dogs who were hating being cooped up in such a small space. We also had to keep turning the car on and off to try and get the AC to cool off the dogs. Savannah is a Siberian Husky with a lot of fur so sitting in 70 degrees for 12 hours in a confined space was not good for her. She was kind of freaking out all night, so I literally got no sleep. My parents and sister were in their Jeep and I think they were able to get a little sleep, but not much. Once we were cleared to return home, there was only about a half hour wait for them to clear the roads for us to travel back to the house. I was supposed to work 8:30-4:30 in Honolulu, which is about an hour away from us. Due to the roads being blocked, I had to call my manager who lives closer to go in for me.

Once I got home, around 9am, I literally passed out. I usually can deal without sleep pretty well, but the whole experience was just mentally exhausting. It is so sad to hear about the reports of deaths and injuries in Japan. I am so thankful that we are all safe. I just pray now that the death toll in Japan stops climbing and that they are able to return to some sense of normalcy soon.

Some pictures from the chaos!

Here is link to our news site, Hawaii News Now, which has a lot more about the tsunami's actual damages.

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