Sunday, January 14, 2007

 

Tsunami Excitement In the Hawaiian Islands

Photo: Terragalleria

Friday night was fairly exciting as we waited to hear if a tsunami were going to reach our shores. There had been a large earthquake off the coast of Japan, and thus the public here in Hawaii had been put on alert through television, radio and then the phone calls--what we call the coconut telegraph hotline. The news was of what is called a "tsunami watch" with a possible evacuation for those who live in low-lying areas or near the shore. (We don't.) However, my concern for others and the 'aina' was strong, so I waited up for the warning to be either upgraded (which would have meant evacuation for many) OR for the word from the NWS that there was nothing to be concerned about. This news happened before midnight. Good news. Now go to bed. Yeh!

Last evening as I watched the news on television, I saw where Human Error had crept into this tsunami watch announcement, and I'm sure the famous "Murphy" had a good, hearty laugh. The National Weather Service which issues these alerts has a program on its computers, and apparently (they didn't say EXACTLTY who) someone on the staff had ACCIDENTALLY AT SOME POINT pushed the WRONG button which then moved the warning level UP from merely a watch to the more serious evacuate level. This warning then generated lots of phone calls from panicked people, and I'm sure lots of unneccessary work on the part of the service 'splaining themselves. I wonder what they said to the citizens. Did they tell them the truth about this announcement being an accident as they later confessed to the news media? Sometimes I would like to be a fly on the wall and listen in...wouldn't you?!

In any event, Hawaii has a system set up so that sirens would go off if a serious tsunami is approaching. However, my partner and I have looked at the roadways on Maui, and we have surmised everyone would most likely be trapped in their cars in a traffic jam in South Maui trying to get to Upcountry (to higher ground) as there is only ONE road system to get there, and this road would be clogged in such an emergency. There IS another route going through ranch land which begins in Makena and ends somewhere in Kanaio, but this gate is locked, and only a few land barons and wealthy people hold the keys to this gate I've been told. Of course, there are always fence-cutters and four-wheel-drive vehicles if the need to get to higher-ground is an absolute life and death necessity. Since we possess neither of these two items, we shall have to pray that tsunamis never reach our shores.

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