Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hawaii Day 3¾

it's the spookiest thing when the sea just seems to drain away. in maui, nothing too bad as a result so far. +/- 6ft swells, 15 mins apart.11 Mar 2011 via Twitter for iPhone

At the end of Day 3½ we had a decision to make. Stay on the 5th floor of the hotel, 30 yards from the shore, or grab the car and head for higher ground (to where many on Maui had already been evacuated). We had about five hours before the tsunami was to arrive.

We decided to stay put. The hotel building was a 1970s concrete affair, built apparently without subtlety or delicateness as a concern. For whatever it was worth, to my untrained eye it looked sturdy enough to survive a watery onslaught—although with lines at convenience stores getting longer and longer, and cell service already gone, thoughts of an "aftermath" started to enter my head. From our balcony I surveyed the ground below and tried to picture it being overwhelmed by a tidal wave.

We stayed glued to the TV and to Twitter. Lux still sleeping, Wendy and I exchanged messages with friends and family and read on-the-ground updates from Japan, the Philippines and Taiwan. On TV, the local Hawaii stations were solidly informative and helpful; national ones (I'm looking at you, CNN), barely so.

Twitter in the aggregate was incredibly useful although individual Tweets were on occasion off-base. Salim Ismail scared the crap out of me when he tweeted that a second, M8.8, earthquake had hit Japan after the M8.9 one (I asked him about it a couple of days later and he deleted that Tweet and said he'd gotten mixed up).

And then 3am arrived, the time when the tsunami was scheduled to first hit the westernmost point of Hawaii. Local TV stations, cameras pointed at beaches, showed nothing—a dark eerie absence of drama. But then gradually, over the next ten minutes, we saw on TV the ocean recede 100ft back from the beach exposing a bare sea-bed. It left silence and coral and an enormous anticipation.

Not long after that, the first wave hit Maui (it would later turn out that Maui was the worst-affected of all the Hawaiian islands). From the balcony, through the darkness we could make out the receded water and then 15 minutes later a swell coming up to the vegetation line.

It did that about six times over the course of the next hour and a half. The water level would go down 6ft—the waterline receding perhaps 50ft horizontally, like a very low tide—and then up 12ft—like a very high tide. In the darkness it was actually easier to hear than it was to see.

And just like that, by 5am or so it was pretty much over and we went to bed. Lux, of course, hadn't even woken up.

Dr Fryer of the #hawaii Pacific Tsunami Warning Center just said that he thinks the worst is over for most islands. and @wendyverse sleeps.11 Mar 2011 via Twitter for iPhone

1 comment:

SteveR said...

Scary stuff. frightful decision to have to make.