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Tsunami in Kauai

Notes From The Road: This is my “Pete’s-eye view” feature on this site, with reports on interesting people and events I encounter in my travels. Banjos, mandolins, and guitars converge on a beautiful old hotel in the heart of bluegrass-land. Pete and Joan weather tsunami threat in Kauai!

Today was “tsunami day” here in Hawaii. We got a call from the mainland that woke us up about 5am. Joan checked with the front desk and they were already apprised that there would be sirens at 6am, which there were. With the expected event at 11am there was plenty of time to prepare, so we packed up everything into the rental car, stopped for groceries and some McMuffins at McD’s (just before it closed at 7am) and drove up a couple of miles to the Kapaa Middle School well above sea level.

So we sat there with 500+ people in a covered open-air basketball court and a SWAT guy and the school principal (in shorts, “not my official outfit”) gave us orientation. We were all safe but afraid for what might happen to this beautiful island. Electric power and some key bridges (the island is circled by a single highway, mostly 2 lanes) were vulnerable, but meanwhile there was plenty of water from drinking fountains, “boys” and “girls” bathrooms for us mostly older tourists, even wi-fi and TV. The commentators were imparting calculations of how soon till the huge ocean swells would overcome Hilo, the first vulnerable spot in the state, where hundreds of tsunami deaths happened several decades ago.

People all over were stretched out on in the grass under shaded walkways, sleeping or reading or with their laptops, awaiting the frightful news. Finally 11am, 11:30, noon… the expected tsunami time came and went, the tension dissipated and we slowly realized this was a faux-disaster scene. The commentators were closely watching the ocean do some extremely rare, but not damaging things (water suddenly receding and returning a different color), and by 2pm the danger was deemed past, and roads were opened for us to resume our day in paradise. We drove down the hill, loaded back into our hotel room, ate some papayas, and took naps!

A weird day for sure, and one to remember, sort of like Y2K. We are lucky when fate smiles on us yet another time. Life has its hard truths and its soft ones. We are grateful.

Pete and Joan

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