Tag: tsunami

What to do if there’s a tsunami

The Pacific Ocean can look so peaceful

Yesterday around 9PM I saw on social media that Hawaii was in a tsunami watch with a predicted 1AM arrival time. There had been an 8.2 earthquake off the Alaska coast. I pulled out my guest contact information and started calling our guests, starting with the ones needing to prepare for evacuation. Thankfully by the time I was done (and had filled my own bathtub with water, started the dishwasher and plugged in my phone), the watch was called off. It’s good to be prepared.

The likelihood of there being a tsunami while you are on vacation is very slim, and yet, it’s a good idea to know what to expect.

Tsunamis are caused by displacement of ocean water, usually by earthquakes. There are two types of tsunamis – those caused by a local earthquake and those caused by earthquakes far away.

Local earthquake

If it is a local earthquake and you are at the beach, there will be little time for warning. Here are the signs to look for:

  • sudden pulling back of the water
  • earth moving for at least 20 seconds, possibly knocking people to the ground
  • hearing the ocean roar

If you experience any of these while at the beach, you should move away from the beach to at least 100 feet above sea level (one mile inland or in a pinch at least to the fourth floor of an apartment building). If it is a local earthquake, the tsunami waves could arrive within minutes.

Far away earthquake

If it is a far away earthquake, there will be more warning time. The NOAA Pacific Tsunami Warning Center tracks all earthquakes and monitors their DART buoys for possible tsunamis. Should there be a tsunami headed our way, they issue alerts via local media (radio, local TV stations etc). For Maui specific news, follow MauiNow and Maui247 on Facebook or Instagram.

The most obvious warning will come from the tsunami sirens located wherever there is danger of flooding (if you are in a remote location, there may not be a siren). When there is a tsunami warning, these will start wailing (steady three minute tone), fortunately not non-stop but at regular intervals (note: there are monthly emergency tests the first day of every month at 11:45 – don’t panic!) If the sirens start wailing, listen to the local news and follow their directions. Warnings will always tell you when the first tidal wave is expected to arrive. Please listen to these warnings and obey them.

What happens in a tsunami

Prior to the tidal wave, the water will recede further than normal, and then come rushing back in. This more extreme wave action will continue for multiple hours. Here is a NOAA animation of what can happen.

You will want to avoid going into the ocean for a day or two after a tsunami as the ocean is in turmoil, normal currents disrupted. The water will be brown and sharks hunting for food.

If you are familiar with our Sugar Beach condo, the former resident manager Cliff Jordan (now a local realtor) filmed this incredible footage after the Japanese tsunami in March 2011. Note, that tsunami hit Maui around 3AM. Cliff filmed this four hours after the initial waves hit. The initial waves came as far as the BBQ area but also circled around the building and flooded the parking lot. Thankfully the groundfloor condos were not flooded, however guests in the first three floors were evacuated. Ma’alaea Harbor sustained significant damage, in Kihei portions of South Kihei Road were covered in sand, fish and coral.

Do you need to evacuate?

How do you know if you are in an evacuation area? Here is NOAA’s tsunami evacuation map, if you allow it to know your location it reduces the need to search and guess. Kamaole Sands and Sugar Beach condos, you are in the evacuation area. Maui Kamaole or Palms at Wailea condo, you are NOT in the evacuation zone (you do not need to evacuate).

If you need to evacuate:

  • pack your valuables and documents
  • pack food and drink, a flashlight and blanket. Bring some beach chairs along too, evacuations can take a while.
  • close windows and lock the condo behind you
  • head out of the evacuation zone. There are churches (Kihei Lutheran and Hope Chapel) along the Piilani Hwy that open their parking lots to those who need to evacuate. In the past Safeway parking lot has become a bit of a town party. County shelters don’t open until after a tsunami has occurred
  • on Maui shelters do NOT provide anything besides a roof and bathrooms. You will need to bring all your own supplies
  • do not return into the evacuation area until officials give the go-ahead. Remember, it isn’t just one tidal wave, they come in sets for several hours. If there is damage, it may not be safe to go back – so please wait

If you are not in the evacuation zone

  • avoid unnecessary driving (the roads get really clogged)
  • ensure you have working flash lights and your phones are charged (there is always the possibility of a power outage)
  • make sure you have lots of drinking water and also water to wash (clean and fill the bathtub, sinks, pots for non-drinking water purposes)
  • listen to the local news – before the tsunami wave is expected to arrive, the County shuts down the sanitary sewer system. Avoid using the toilet once that happens – when the sanitary sewer is shut down, all sewer will go directly into the ocean

It will be very difficult to find local Maui specific tsunami information. Most of the news will be about Oahu (this is frustrating).

best Maui news

Hawaii news

  • HawaiiNewsNow
  • KITV News
     

    Please do not put your life and that of others (who may have to save you) at risk by going to the beach to watch!

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Disaster Preparedness

disaster preparedness
Hurricane Lane as at 8/20/18 at 5pm

June through November is hurricane season in the Pacific and as of now we have Hurricane Lane, a category 4 hurricane, preparing to pass close to the Hawaiian Islands Thursday/Friday. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now. I guess now is the time to do it. This is more of a general post on what to be aware of if staying in one of OUR condos. It is by all means NOT intended to be an all-inclusive list, but hopefully will give you some sense of what to expect.

Please note that in case of a disaster, Sig and I will be in touch and try to help as much as we can.

KNOW YOUR CONDO’S STREET ADDRESS. Note that the condo’s cable phone will NOT work during a power outage.

During a disaster it is important to keep calm and use common sense. The condo’s front desk of the property will become the resort’s command center. Please listen to the local news and check with the front desk for more information. During a disaster the Maui Police Department is inundated with calls – they will triage these 9-1-1 calls. It is important for you to secure your valuables (we have a safe at each of our condos).

For hurricanes and tsunamis (except locally generated) you will have time to prepare.

Check your condo’s binder on whether you are in the flood zone and need to evacuate (Sugar Beach Resort and Kihei Surfside yes, Palms at Wailea and Maui Kamaole no). Portions of South Kihei Road itself are considered flood zone and may be blocked off – you may not be able to leave the property after the event. The local power plants and water treatment facilities are also in the flood zone. Be prepared to go up to seven days without water, electricity and outside help. Clean the bathtub and fill it and as many containers as you can find with fresh tap water. Locate and check the condo’s flashlight, check batteries. Charge all your electronic devices. If you have time, stock up on food, paper plates, batteries (for flashlight & radio), gasoline (for your rental car), cash (possibility of no credit card/bank machines in power failure) etc. Avoid unnecessary travel as the roads become clogged quickly.

 

Earthquakes cause landslides, property damage, and tsunami waves.

Local earthquakes are no-notice events. There is no way to predict them. If you feel an earthquake, DROP, COVER and HOLD ON.

If there is a local earthquake, it typically takes 3-5 minutes for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center to let Civil Defense know if a local tsunami has been generated. If the earthquake is strong enough to knock you off balance and you are in an evacuation zone, move uphill as soon as things stop moving. Don’t wait for a siren. You may only have a few minutes until the tsunami wave arrives.

 

Tsunamis

A tsunami is a series of waves caused by a local or distant earth quake. Do not go to the beach to watch until the all-clear has been given (usually a number of hours). Tsunamis can create erratic currents and there can be debris washed into the water, so stay out of the ocean for a few days.

Maui is equipped with tsunami warning sirens (these are tested on the first day of the month at 11:45am). If you hear them sounding otherwise, move to higher ground and tune in to local news for more information. The siren closest to you may be out of order. If you are in a remote area, there may not be a siren. Signs of a pending tsunami: the earth shakes strong enough to knock you off balance, you hear the ocean roar, or there is a sudden pulling back of the water.

The water treatment facilities are shut down 30 minutes before the first tsunami wave is scheduled to arrive. Avoid flushing the toilet until the all-clear has been given, waste water will flow untreated into the ocean (another reason to stay out of the ocean for a few days after).

You may or may not be in a flood evacuation zone. There will be emergency shelters that open, if you do need to evacuate. Listen to the news and check the front desk for more information. Do not go to an emergency shelter until it has opened and, very importantly, you will be expected to bring your own suppliesEven if you do not need to evacuate, keep in mind you may be without water and utilities and the road may be blocked.

 

Hurricane/cyclone

Hurricanes have 3 danger components: wind (can also cause tornadoes), rain and lightning, storm surge. During a hurricane, you want to button down anything loose outside (move all patio furniture inside), secure all doors and windows and then stay away from windows.

Again, you may or may not be in a flood evacuation zone. There will be emergency shelters that open, if you do need to evacuate. Listen to the news and check the front desk for more information. Do not go to an emergency shelter until it has opened and, very importantly, you will be expected to bring your own supplies.

Stay out of the ocean for several days. Storms wash debris into the ocean and stir up the ocean currents.

 

Internet Resources

Maui County Civil Defense (check under Departments tab)

Central Pacific Hurricane Center

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center

KHON2 News (mainly Oahu)

MauiNow News

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Monthly warning siren testing

Maui’s new warning sirens

If you’ve been here around the first of the month, you should be familiar with the monthly warning siren testing that takes place. Loud sirens sound at 11:45AM on the first day of every month. This checks that the sirens are operational and is meant to be a reminder to all that tsunamis can happen.

Starting tomorrow (Friday, December 1st) the State is adding an additional ‘wailing’ siren test to the monthly routine. This is called the attack warning siren and will sound in conjunction with the tsunami warning siren on the first day of every month at 11:45AM. I am told it will be a wailing tone that goes for about a minute. Click here for a sound sample as reported by MauiNow.

As an FYI, the tsunami siren test is a 45 second steady tone. During an actual tsunami warning, it goes for 3 minutes.

What should you do when you hear warning sirens?

If it’s the first of the month and at 11:45AM, it’s just a test. No further action needed.

These older warning sirens have for the most part been replaced.

If you hear these sirens at any other time, you need to take action. If it’s the tsunami siren, you need to head to higher ground immediately. It could be a locally triggered tsunami and you may have just a few minutes to get to safety. Tune in to radio or TV for further instructions. Depending on where the earthquake happened, we sometimes have up to 10 hours notice (no the sirens won’t go off that far in advance).

Locally triggered tsunamis? Yes, tsunamis are triggered by some earthquakes. While Hawaii is far removed from fault lines, we do have volcanic activity which causes earthquakes (generally they are rather small and I don’t recall experiencing a locally triggered tsunami in the past 7 years on island).

If it’s the attack warning siren, that indicates that a nuclear attack is imminent. Head indoors, close doors and windows and turn on radio or TV for further instructions for a pending emergency. Having said that, I assume you’d have to be find a local station?

Isn’t it crazy that things have deteriorated on the world stage that we need to plan for this?  The last time these attack sirens were tested was in the 1980s. Is the State expecting a nuclear attack? Politicians think it’s unlikely. And yet, State planners are running through scenarios so that they are prepared in case something were to happen. It’s good to have a plan. Hopefully we will never need to use it.

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