Be Safe

Be Safe

Aloha!
To all of my readers on the East Coast, I send out a heartfelt wish for your safety and a swift return to normalcy. I hope you are not without power. Be safe!

To those who have opened up a discussion about the tsunami warning in Hawaii, I offer the following thoughts. One reader, TC, happened to be on Maui during the tsunami warning and asked if the level of panic observed is normal here.

When you live on Maui for a while, the enormity of being a spec in the middle of the ocean grows. It feels a bit like being a flea on an elephant. We are the farthest from any landmass of any Archipelago. (Not just Hawaii, but Maui.) For those who have lived through dock strikes, or a hurricane, or a tsunami, it becomes readily apparent how dependent we are on the outside world for absolutely everything, from toilet paper to rice, to bottled water.

A fire alone can shut down the whole west part of the island. I’ve seen it happen. There is no getting in or out, because there is only one road in, and they now close down the northern route so it will not become clogged with people and cut off emergency vehicle access. More than once I had to get a hotel room and sleep on the west side when I couldn’t get home from work, due to a disaster.

People are very attuned to this when authorities say a tsunami is coming. They immediately picture no electricity, no food, no ships getting in with supplies for God knows how long. The thing about a tsunami is that there is essentially no warning. An hour or two maybe, and then it’s a call to evacuate. Tsunamis travel at 500 mph plus-the same speed as a jet. There is little response time, no planning ahead.

Mike was a fireman on Oahu for 12 years and amazingly, spent less time fighting fires than he he did rescuing people from the ocean, and on occasion, from big waves washing over people’s houses. That’s just what the North Shore is like in the winter time. He says the level of panic of people fleeing during a tsunami warning also has to do with responsibility. Responsible people realize that if they don’t act, they are jeopardizing the life of someone else (such as Mike) who must then come in and rescue them.

One disconcerting fact that came out during the news reports on television for this tsunami warning: there are no buoys between Hawaii and the mainland. None. So when the earthquake struck Canada and reverberated out, they had nothing to look at to check the rising tide between us and them. So we had to prepare for the worst.

The following facts are from this good website: http://ptwc.weather.gov/faq.php#6

1. How fast do tsunamis travel?
Tsunami wave speed is controlled by water depth. Where the ocean is over 6,000 meters (3.7 miles) deep, unnoticed tsunami waves can travel at the speed of a commercial jet plane, over 800 km per hour (500 miles per hour). Tsunamis travel much slower in shallower coastal waters where their wave heights begin to increase dramatically.

2. What does a tsunami look like when it reaches the shore?
As the leading edge of a tsunami wave approaches shore, it slows dramatically due to the shallower water. However, the trailing p art of the wave can still be moving rapidly in the deeper water. This results in a “piling up” of the tsunami energy, and the tsunami wave height grows. The wave looks and acts like giant river of water on top of the ocean that floods the shore.

3. Where and how often do tsunamis usually occur?
Major tsunamis occur about once per decade. Based on historical data, about 59% of the world’s tsunamis have occurred in the Pacific Ocean, 25% in the Mediterranean Sea, 12% in the Atlantic Ocean, and 4% in the Indian Ocean.

Stay safe, and treasure each day. If you are a reader on the East Coast, please let me know you’re okay!

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

The Tsunami that Wasn’t

“I have a lot of excitement in my life. I used to call it tension, but I feel much better now that I call it excitement.” Madeline Costigan

Aloha!

So I’d already had my allotment of excitement for a Saturday night and was now reading, of all things, “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World” by Martha Beck, when the air-raid siren went off. That sucker is LOUD. And since it wasn’t noon on the first day of the month when the firemen do their test signal, it got my full attention. “What the…?” I personally think that Americans need to come up with more creative ways to curse at times like these. The British are quite good at this, but when an American utters, “Bloody hell” or “Bullocks,” we just sound like pompous asses.

Anyway, I thought maybe someone set off the siren accidentally. After all, nothing was going on. Right? Wrong.

Last night we had the tsunami that wasn’t. After a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off Canada, we were placed on tsunami warning, the highest alert…signaling that all coastal areas were likely to be hit by a wave and initiating evacuation efforts. About an hour later, Maui Civil Defense issued an “immediate evacuation advisory,”and Kahului was evacuated. We could see the lines of cars snaking up Haleakala Highway and Omapio Rd. from our back porch. Made me feel all fuzzy inside to live this far away from the beach for once.

Two years ago Hawaii had another tsunami that wasn’t. Mike owned a catamaran then with three other guys, and the first thing they tell boaters is to take the boat out to sea. Seems counterintuitive, but you want to get as far from shore as possible. So we had our own little
Panic because they were telling us the boats could have to stay out for days. We gathered up every gallon of water we had, and because I cook from scratch, there was essentially no canned food in the house to send with him. I felt like a failure: if the tsunami doesn’t get him, he’ll die of starvation. And there was no time to go to the store. The warning came late; this was all going on about 10:30 PM.

Mike stayed out with the boat off Lanai that night, and all the next day. There was some minor damage of Maalaea harbor and Lahaina harbor. But all in all, it was the Hawaii tsunami that wasn’t.

Fast-forward two years, and here we are again. We gather up the flashlights, check the batteries, make sure the weather radio is working. We take all the ice out of the freezer and put it in a cooler and replace more Tupperware containers full of water in the freezer. The scary thing is our main electrical transformer is in Kahului, way too close to the water for comfort. What were they thinking? So there’s always the chance we could lose power, and refrigeration, for days.

After a tense three hours, Kahului has been evacuated, and… Nothing. Barely a ripple of higher waves on the shoreline.

Kahului and Paia were both taken out by a tsunami in the 1950s. A woman I know tells the story of her grandmother hanging wash on the line in Paia with her children playing in the yard, and she heard the wave before she saw it. She dropped the clothespins, grabbed her babies and ran for higher ground. They were safe.

This time it was reported that the warning sirens on the Big Island failed to go off in a number of places. The news reporter on television laughed and said, “Probably a gecko crawled in there and died.” Yes, the geckos are troublemakers…. but it doesn’t inspire much confidence in the system. After Japan’s tsunami, we’re all aware of what could happen.

There was pandemonium in crowded Waikiki last night with everyone in their cars, rushing to higher ground. Many car accidents. Eventually on the news, they told everyone to just get out of their cars, leave them where they were, and get to higher ground. The lines at the gas stations were jammed, which is why I make it a practice to always fill my car when it hits a half tank.

It seems we’ve had many instances of a tsunami in Hawaii that wasn’t. I worry that it’s become a bit liking crying wolf, and one of these times people will simply refuse to evacuate.

In the meantime, I enjoy living at an elevation of 1500 feet. Living at the beach sounds like fun…till it isn’t. This is always a good reminder that life can turn on a dime. Time is short, the people in our lives are precious.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica