The TV was off. Mother was in bed. I was working on a genealogy research project. Sounded like the neighbors had turned on their heating/cooling system, with a higher-pitched whine behind it. Took me a bit to figure out it was the civil defense sirens.
On went the TV. News of an 8.9 Mega earthquake in Japan generating a huge tidal wave. These days we use the Japanese term, tsunami. Video from Japan is horrendous. It's difficult to grasp the enormity of of the catastrophe.
Hawaii was in the direct path of the most significant wave energy. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center predicted surges of up to 2 meters in our islands. Most what we have heard since 10 p.m. last night has focused on local concerns -- the need for evacuation, where to go, the difference between evacuation shelters and holding areas (no shelters, just holding areas for now), understanding the new inundation maps that define who must evacuate and who can stay put. We are warned that while the impact would be greatest on the north- and west-facing shores, the wave energy would wrap around each island, potentially causing significant water levels everywhere.
Our own neighborhood faces southeast and is protected by a substantial reef. The beach is just over 2 blocks away. My mother has never evacuated. The house has never even been seriously threatened. I remember occasions when my father was anxious, had us kids all excited and wanting to evacuate, but Mother stood firm. We didn't go.
The new inundation maps put us 1/2 block inside the inundation zone.
Remembered my experience with forest fire evacuations. Officials can tell you to go, but they cannot drag you out of your own home. You stay at your own peril. Once out, they CAN refuse to let you back in until the danger is past. Those were the days I was driving an official car that could go anywhere, even into the fire zone.
Did wake my mother and ask her if she wanted to evacuate or stay put. I had visions of this 96-year-old person, tired and confused, barely able to hear or understand what was happening, trying to get comfortable on a bench in a school cafeteria or a folding metal chair in the recreation room of the neighborhood park, or in her walker-with-a-seat. For at least another 7 hours. No place to sleep or even lie down, no hot coffee. No friends I know well enough to call and ask, "Can we come camp at your house until this is over?" I was willing to argue with the police if Mother wanted to stay put. We stayed. I prayed.
The first surges came as predicted, just after 3 a.m.. At Waikiki and at Diamond Head, where TV cameras were monitoring, the surges were small but readily visible. Flow up, cover the beach, ebb out, repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The ebb and flow was still happening at 7 a.m.
Most boat owners in Waikiki took their boats to sea where they could more safely ride the surges. (California boat owners apparently don't know this trick.) At one small boat harbor, the floating docks broke apart. The boats attached to them smashed into buildings and other boats. Damage was worse on Maui and in Kona, where the surges came up onto land, flooded buildings, causing structural damage. Still haven't heard from Oahu's North Shore, from the Lahaina side of Maui, or from Hilo, the most tsunami-vulnerable city in the State. Three major airports are closed, but Honolulu Airport is opened. County officials on each island are out assessing the damage.
Meanwhile, we are warm, dry, fed, and safe. We have water and power. I'm going to take a nap.
Give thanks for the relatively minimal damage through most of the Pacific. Do what you can for those who are most heavily impacted.
Don't forget to pray.