What a surprise! The surprise of our lives, you could say. Who would ever think that in this beautiful paradise, amidst the most beautiful of natural creations, the force of the life-giving ocean would offer up its most devastating ways.
A tsunami is caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption. We know the earthquake occurred in Japan…and I am sure you have seen the devastation there. Such a tragedy. We were seeing the pictures also…just as we were waiting for it to hit Hawaii! What exactly is a tsunami?A tsunami wave is really a very “long” wave, with its energy moving vertically from seafloor to surface at a high rate (this wave was traveling at 600 mph). When approaching the coast, the depth decreases dramatically and thus the amplitude increases creating huge devastating waves. Usually there is little impact offshore, and most boats travel over it feeling only a small bump. The water along the coast is sucked out , then the wave come rolling in…stopping for nothing. Size varies.
The first hint of things to come came at about 9:45 as we were watching CSI . The newscasters broke in and said that we were under a tsunami watch…….”News at Ten.” Of course, we watched it, and at that time all they had to say was that there had been a major earthquake in Japan and that the Pacific Tsunami Warning System was assessing the situation. And, they would let us know. So we waited and soon they were back on and telling us that the earthquake in Japan was much worse than thought and that it had already caused a major tsunami in Japan. And in another half hour…..we were under a tsunami warning!!!
Now, I knew what a tsunami was. One of the very first times I came to Hawaii….back in the dark ages…….there was still evidence of the last one. There were ‘water line’ marks that were higher than I could reach. I was only16 at the time. In 1946, a Pacific wide tsunami obliterated the waterfront area of Hilo, on the Big Island. This prompted the establishment of the Pacific ‘Tsunami Warning Center. Since then many areas and lives have been saved due to this early warning system. It is always ‘on watch’ for any thing happening in the Pacific that would affect the areas it serves. Unfortunately, the tsunami in Japan was created immediately and there was no time for the warnings to take affect. If you remember the devastating tsunami in Thailand several years ago, there was no warning system in this area to warn the residents of coming disaster. So sad.
Well, it is hard to explain the way I was feeling. Surprisingly, I felt a sense of calm. Maybe it was niavite, but I felt no panic or fear. Because, I was familiar with the Warning System, I knew that the warning was true and would happen…in some form or another. Also, I knew that Hawaii had evacuation routes already in place and that we would simply evacuate, if necessary.
I also experienced an excitement of sorts. Was I actually going to have a chance to witness this phenomenon of nature? It really would be quite a sight to see…and quite a story to tell! (And what great blog material!)
The newscasters were telling us to wait until the ‘EVACUATE’ order was given. They had told us all to check in the phone book where it explained just which areas were in the evacuation zone and should be prepared to leave. We looked. And, yes. Yes we were. We were smack dab in the middle of the tsunami warning evacuation area. Which meant we had to be ready to leave. If we left, we would drive up into the mountains following the escape route. We were to go as far as we could. Then we would stop, and spend the night in the car…until the ALL CLEAR was given! We were to take food and water.
We decided that that Joy and Patty should begin to pack. I asked Patty to go and get our car, which was in valet parking, and move it to the third floor parking so that it would be closer to us. In the meantime, I took off to the lobby to talk to the management. As I expected there was a huge amount of activity around the lobby. When it was my turn to talk to ‘the man in charge”…I asked him about the level of danger. “EXTREMELY HIGH”. I asked if we should leave. “THAT WOULD BE THE SAFEST THING TO DO” We are on the 6th floor of the motel…would we be safe there? “YOU SHOULD BE O.K.” ‘Should’ is not a word that instills much confidence in this girl. Should is not definite. And, in matters of life and death, I prefer to be VERY, ABSOLUTELY, DEFINITELY SURE !………[which is why I know FOR SURE . where I will be going when I die! ] . He moved on to talk to someone else. And, so, as I stepped out into the beautiful courtyard of our motel, I looked up into the sky. The stars were amazing. Millions of them…twinkling their little lights as hard as they could. The beautiful palm trees were gently swaying. The smell of plumeria was heavy in the air. And, the waves crashing on the shore was an oddly comforting sound. All around me was the most beautiful of the natural world. It was unthinkable to imagine it mutilated or gone completely.
I did not hear God speak to me…even though I was asking Him to tell me what to do. But, in my heart of hearts, I knew that He said to me….”These things belong to me.” Well, not meaning to be sacrilegious here…but I KNEW that these things belonged to Him…and that was not an answer to my question….and I really didn’t have a lot of time here. So, just in case I wan’t passing along to Him the fact that I needed to hear some instructions NOW…I said out loud, “Jesus, please let me know what to do.” And, I heard nothing…and I felt nothing…and my heart of hearts stayed empty of His words. So, I found a bench and sat down and waited. I knew Joy and Patty were packing and waiting for me. But, I needed to be still. I watched as people were scurrying here and there. The sirens were blowing everywhere…every 30 minutes. Loud…very loud! How could anyone miss it? People rushing to the parking lot with their suitcases. People on the phones making reservations at hotels not in the danger zone. People calling the airport and trying to book flights out going anywhere before the tsunami struck…about 4 hours. Husbands and wives arguing about what they should do. Children crying because they were seeing their parents not in control. People arguing with the hotel manager, “You mean you expect me to sit in my car all night?” or “All you have to offer is the floor up on 6th to sit on and wait? What will we eat? What are we supposed to do all night?” I sat and watched, and felt foolish for not doing something. I thought of Joy and Patty. And, even though they could make their own decisions, I knew they were waiting for me. But, I heard nothing. I thought of how watching all these people in such turmoil was like an ant hill that gets stepped on. Out pour the ants, not knowing where to go…just going. There was no leader. It was a picture of chaos. If the Queen Of All Ants would just step out and blow her whistle and get them all lined up…they could follow her out of danger…back into the deep trenches of their home.
And, then I knew. I HAD a leader. I HAD heard Him before tell me to STOP! Or tell me to GO! And, I knew that if I needed it, He would,again, tell me what to do. I felt an immediate peace about the situation. AND to top it all off, a friend of mine had posted this verse on FB…and I had read it aloud to Joy and Patty. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified…for the Lord our God will be with us wherever we go.” Joshua 1:9. If He meant anything He said in His Word, then He meant this as well. Either all He said was true or all He said was lies. This was one of His promises and I had every reason to believe He would keep this one as well as all the others He had kept in my life!
I went back to the room, and we sat down and talked. I told them I had a very strong peace. And, that I felt like we should stay put. But, if either of them felt different, we would go. But, both Joy and Patty assured me that they were at perfect peace, and not afraid. I wanted to know one more thing before we made our final decision. I asked them to go to the lobby and ask about the strength of the building we were in. They were told that it was a concrete structure made to withstand hurricanes and the like. That settled it for me. And Joy. And Patty. They went and got our suitcases out of the car. We sat together and prayed and asked for safety for us and all the rest of the islands. We prayed for the devastation in Japan. We thanked God for giving us the courage of our convictions. We called home and spoke to our families and told them what we decided and they were in agreement with us. Since it was the middle of the night, I just sent e mails to some. And, then, we still had 2 hours to wait. We watched TV…which alternated between what happened in Japan, and what could happen here. I looked over at one point and Joy and Patty were both asleep! ASLEEP! Can you believe it? Facing danger and mayhem, yet they were sleeping! 🙂 Creates a picture of true trust, doesn’t it? (Well, I woke them up before time for it to hit…no way I was sitting through this alone!)
About 50 people came up onto the breezeway of the 6th floor. They had rooms on the lower floors but could not leave for one reason or another. The hotel provided them with food and water. At one point we took the blankets off our beds out to see if anyone was cold, but no one was. There were old and young, men and women. Mostly they sat without talking. Just waiting. So thankful that we had gotten a room on the 6th floor when we checked in! God knew!
The tsunami was scheduled to hit Kauai first. It did and caused little damage. It was announced that it was only about 4 feet high on Kauai, so it should be no higher on Maui. That relieved our minds. We didn’t know until the next day that it actually was about 6 feet high here in Maui. We never saw anything where we were. But, there was quite a bit of damge about 10 miles from us . It seemed to do the most damage on The Big Island and on Oahu. Damage, yes, there was some. And, some of it was quite severe. But, nothing like it could have been. Hawaii had for the most part, been spared.
Long line of cars snaking their way up the mountain to safety in Maui.
Can you find the house in the ocean…below?
For coastal/intertidal marine life (especially coral and fishes) the wave is extremely, immediately disruptive (devastating), but not-so-much further offshore (> 100 foot depth). The resultant effects will likely include waters laden with earth and debris retreating, dumping tons of sediment at greater depth, smothering everything. Short, even long term, this sediment can kill or harm other animals dependent upon this area of the ocean for food. Therefore while dolphins may not have noticed the tsunami, they could suffer from lowered prey availability due to habitat destruction of prey species.*****
What an absolutely fascinating story, Tonja. Your faith never ceases to awe and inspire me … I'm so glad you all were safe and God's beautiful Hawaiian paradise was spared major damage.
My heart goes out to the people of Japan as I watch the horror stories on TV showing what they are experiencing — not only from the tsunami, but from the nuclear disaster, too.
Thank you for sharing your story with us.
What a great testimony to the power of our God to calm us and care for us! So glad you were safe!
I couldn't sleep that night so I was up and when I learned of Japan and then the threat to Hawaii I began to pray and, of course, I was praying for you girls. Such a scary time. Praise God the ending was good. I'm so thankful for your safety.
I've been waiting for your post. I love how you write. Each detail was wonderful to read.
I love the calm you felt. So glad you were safe. Those pictures of the damage are so sad. That house in the ocean is really something! Excellent Bible verses.
Adventures just seem to follow you around! So glad you are safe.
What a story! And what an inspiration you are to me, remaining calm and focusing on hearing God at a time like that!
I laughed out loud when I read the part where you were thinking what great blog material this would be!!
I'm so glad you wrote this post – – – I had been WONDERING how the tsunami affected you.
How INTERESTING for a science gal like me!!!!