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A personal Hawaii experience

Notes from a Honolulu Tsunami Evacuee

Marsha Joyner  Mar 15, 2011

Well here we are at 2 am on March 11, 2011 parked in Koko Head District Park; my husband Ken and our old dog HoneyGirl. The stillness and the beauty of the park belie the carnage of the Japan earthquakes and the Tsunami we are awaiting. KokoHead Park is the highest and safest place in East Honolulu. So flanked by neighbors and friends, we unpack the car and greet everyone with “happy Tsunami night” and we all just wait. This feels far more real than last year's tsunami warning.

All of the animals seem to be comfortable; hopefully that means something. Animals are so much smarter than people. They are one with nature. If only we were. Whoever wrote the book of Genesis was wrong to give man dominion over them. Surely God did not give man free rein to do anything he wants to the planet; bend it to his uses and abuses, rape it of all its beauty and diversity for his own benefit. What gives us the right to dig, bore, bulldoze, clear, burn and kill without regard for Mother Nature?

Mankind has really pissed off Mother Nature. And I do mean Mother Nature is pissed!

We've been getting ready ever since that first phone call at 7:46 pm yesterday (not sure when yesterday turned into today) when we learned that "an 8.9 earthquake hit Japan". Mentally prepared that is. Physically, when you live along the Pacific Ocean and this close to nature, you are always ready for a large natural disaster.

2:15 am: the 5th siren sounds. All is still and we wait. The first tsunami wave is supposed to arrive at 3:07 am on Kauai. Traveling at 500+ miles an hour, we will quickly learn the reality when it hits the Waianae coast of Oahu only minutes after. The wave hit Midway Island at the height of about 2 meters. Not sure what that portents for us.

The Royal Smart People on the radio keep talking about "the models." How do you model a tsunami when Mother Nature is pissed? At the time of the Japan earthquake, Madame Pele on the Big Island shook the earth four times. I wonder if the Royal Smart People know about that?

In the new language of the Royal Smart People, the hotel guests in Waikiki, Ko Olina, Turtle Bay and in the Neighbor Island hotels were “evacuated-up” -- and we were “evacuated-out”. “Evacuated-up” means being moved to rooms on the upper levels of the hotels; upgrades to the “A” list suites at no additional charge I guess. I wonder if the homeless who live on the beaches were “evacuated-out”? Early evening we saw pictures on TV of police "knocking" on each tent asking them to move. Now that conjures some images.

We just heard a radio report about an older couple from Iowa on their “trip of a lifetime” to celebrate their anniversary. They were on the very last plane to land before the Honolulu Airport was closed. Every road into Waikiki was barricaded; no way to get to the hotels and no room at the airport hotels. Can you imagine being stranded this way in a strange city with a tsunami roaring towards you?

Its already daytime in America and I suppose they are waiting to see what happens to us. Hawai`i is the most isolated land mass on the face of the earth; 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan and New York is 4968 miles. At 4,900 miles, we're closer to China than the Big Apple! Here in the middle of the Pacific, Hawaii residents have come to terms living in a sort of twilight zone. We watched the Japan earthquake on TV as it happened; around 9 am in Japan, 3 pm in Hawai`i and 9 pm in New York.

Sitting here in the dark, my mind explores and investigates. It's very dark and I’m writing by the light of “HoneyGirl’s leash light. I’m sure I’ll not be able to read any of these notes in the morning sunlight. I also know if I don’t write it now, I’ll get caught up in the drama of the day and the memory of this night will be tucked far away. Ken asked if I was writing my will? Of course not! I have plenty of will. It’s the “won’t” that I don't have.

Yikes! Just as I was deep into the stillness, screaming cats broke the sound of silence. That of course has set off every pet dog in the park. The black cat with white socks seemingly won the fight. He's sitting there by the road as if he owns it and perhaps he does. Ken points out the large meeting of cats further down the road. There are cats everywhere; brown cats, black cats, yellow cats and stripped cats -- cats with tails, cats without tails, cats in the grass, cats on the pavement. Cats, cats and more cats. I guess they're discussing all of these strange cars, people and dogs in their space during their time of the night.

A gust of wind whipped up the trees. HoneyGirl (our dog) does not like the sound of the wind. She cannot see where it comes from. We’ll have to move back to the car.

My friend Marilyn’s home is high on the side of a mountain in Sea View. She and her family are safe in bed. Elmer lives way back in Kalihi Valley and he's very safe there. But we in the high rent district on the water in Hawai`i Kai will spend the night parked in the car listening to the static of the am radio. The rest of the world is connected on Facebook, at least that's what the radio's reporting. And our AT&T cell phone network is jammed!

2:46 am: the 6th siren just went off -- this must be the calm before the storm. Or Does that apply to a Tsunami?

I’m impressed with the way the people of Hawai’i handle emergencies. Everyone cooperates. They are all so friendly and calm. Everyone follows directions very well! Aloha seems more real at such times as this.

Governor Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Carlisle are both new at their jobs. This is this is an excellent way for them to get their feet wet (pun intended). I can hear the difference in the less- cavalier voices of the mayors of the Neighbor Islands who have been thru this before. This is not a drill.

The schools will be closed on all Islands Friday.
The Honolulu Mayor declared an administrative leave holiday for Friday.

We only have e few minutes before the wave hits Kauai and the “what if’s” set in:
What if our boat breaks its moorings?
What if the house is wet thru and thru?
What if we loose the power plants and the ATM machines won't work?
Yes, what if we loose power? The power plants are all next to the water and everything in our house is electric.

The radio announces that the first wave has hit Kauai.
I’ll listen.

It is now after 4 am and the wave has wrapped around Oahu, moved down to Maui and the Big Island. There must have been some damage here, but it's too dark to see much from our vantage point. All the lights in Waikiki are still on and that's a good sign.

HoneyGirl is restless, Ken is asleep and I want to go home.

Even though the danger has passed, the all clear has not sounded and we'll have to use the backroads to get home. The main highway has been closed since 2 am.

5 am: Home at last! The boat did not break its mornings, the house is dry, and we did not loose power. The ATM machines will work! But the best part is being warm and safe in our bed. I can hear HoneyGirl snoring; a very peaceful sound after this tumultuous day. My prayers will be for the people of Japan. As I get under my warm covers and lay down my journal, I wonder how bad it is there? I hope I can read these scribbled notes later.

Notes from a Honolulu Tsunami Evacuee

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