2011 Kona Tsunami

Kona tsunamiAt about 9:30 PM, Thursday evening, March 10, Lisa and I got a call from a neighbor saying we should turn on the news — there had been an earthquake in Japan and a tsunami was headed towards Hawaii.

Beginning about 10 PM, and continuing about every hour throughout the night, the warning sirens sounded. At 1450 feet elevation, Rancho Aloha was not in danger but many homes, hotels, and businesses in Kona are at or just above sea level. Thousands of residents and hotel guests were sent to higher ground. Many spent the night in vehicles at the shopping center and school parking lots. One intrepid family from Portland made it to Rancho Aloha for a scheduled farm visit at 9:45 Friday morning after a night in the Kealakehe High School parking lot.

Although the tsunami was originally predicted to arrive in Hawaii at about 3 AM Friday morning, the principal surges did not appear in Kona until after dawn. The ocean surge was only about 5 to 6 feet and most places along the coast had little damage. However, where funneled into bays and coves, the surge was magnified and caused damage that included water into the lobby of the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel and damage to the seawall along Kailua Bay. In Keauhou Bay the Yacht Club building was destroyed and in Kealekekua Bay a home was swept off its foundation and into the Pacific.

All in all, we in Kona were very lucky. It is hard to imagine the extent of damage there would have been if the tsunami had been 15 or 20 feet high.

Our sympathies and concern go to our friends in Japan.

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