Maui Residents Brace For Tsunami

Editor’s Note: The following information is provided by The Maui News

WAILUKU, Hawaii — Roused from sleep to the news of an approaching tsunami this morning, Maui residents spilled onto streets and dashed to gas stations to fill up their vehicles.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning at 12:46 a.m. A tsunami was generated by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Chile. The center estimated the first wave would arrive about 11:19 a.m., or 4:19 p.m. EST.

Civil Defense sirens sounded at 6 a.m.

County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said people should move away from the shorelines and toward higher ground. No evacuation centers are open, she said.

As the time for the tsunami’s expected arrival closed in, people did move to higher ground. Traffic gridlock was reported on South Kihei Road and on roads Upcountry. The Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani was jammed with people and vehicles, a passer-by said.

Shelters may be opened after the tsunami if there is damage that prevents people from being able to return to their homes, she said.

In Wailuku, motorists trying to get gas at Uptown Chevron were lined up on Main Street up to the intersection of High Street where the State Building is located.

At Kihei Gas, the line snaked up mauka on Lipoa Street to Kihei Elementary School and then makai by Times Supermarket and St. Theresa’s Church.

Janet Manibog, 57, of Kihei, was awakened by phone by her 19-year-old grandson around 2:30 a.m. She went back to sleep for a short while until another grandson woke her up again.

“‘Grandma, you need to get up he told me. This is not a game. This is not a drill. It’s for real,’ ” Manibog said.

Manibog said she was concerned that the 6 a.m. siren was not loud enough for people, particularly senior citizens, to hear in Kihei. “As I listened, it was very, very dull. … I thought ‘Oh my God, this is really faint.’ “

Manibog said she planned to head up to Maui Meadows and join family in higher ground. “I’m OK, a little shaky but I’m going to be OK.”

Jose Castellanos, a driver for The Maui News, said he had not heard about the tsunami warning until a newspaper carrier alerted it to him.

The signs that something was different Saturday than any other day showed as early as 3 a.m. when Castellanos was delivering papers. “A lot of condos had their lights on, more than the usual,” he said.

He was heading out of Kihei by 3:45 a.m. and noticed a lot more traffic than usual. “Normally I don’t even see cars on the the highways. Today there was a lot,” he said.

Castellanos said newspaper delivery went uninterrupted this morning.

In Kahului, lines stretched out to the roadways at every gas station.

Major Cockett from Wailuku waited in his car to fill up gas at the Tesoro station on Puunene Avenue around 5:30 a.m.

He said he went to four other gas stations and found their lines too long. He waited behind three other cars as a line of vehicles backed up behind him on Puunene Avenue.

“I never sleep yet,” Cockett said. He said he heard about the tsunami Friday night and stayed up all night to find out what was going on before he began calling relatives to alert them.

Cockett said he was on his way to Kihei to pick up his niece who has a physical disability.

“I like make sure she safe,” he said.

Inside the Tesoro convenience store, there weren’t any lines but a steady stream of customers, workers said.

Tesoro worker Lynneth Damo said customers were picking up water and food.

“But the gas is making me crazy,” she said, alluding to the lines outside.

The convenience store’s manger Rosita Paragas said she was off today, but she went into work in case she had to close the store.

Lines were at least 45 people deep at Safeway in Kahului, as people waited in line with cases of water and saimin along with nonperishable foods.

Duane Pagay of Kahului said he got to Safeway around 5 a.m., and he and his family had to grab shopping carts from customers coming out of the store.

He and wife, Johnalyn Lizada, had cases of water, bread, apples and snacks for their children.

Pagay said he had already been waiting in line to pay for 45 minutes. There were still 20 more people in front of him.

Ana and Sisiteni Tupou of Waiehu had two suitcases in the back of their van in the Safeway parking lot.

They said they were heading to a park in Kula to meet with other family members.

The Tupous had bought cases of water along with bread and other necessities to take with them to the park. They expected to meet up with 12 others at there.

At McDonald’s in Kahului, people waiting in line for their food kept tabs on the latest news on the tsunami from the television in the restaurant.

Tourist Rita Delos Santos from Singapore, along with family and friends from Chicago and New York, sat in the restaurant waiting for their food.

Delos Santos said members of her family had been staying in Lahaina when they were alerted by family and friends by cellular phone about the tsunami.

“We decided to pack up early,” she said.

So they drove from Lahaina to Kahului where they felt they were safer in town.

They were also going to meet up with other family members.

Delos Santos, who was making her first trip to Maui, said she wasn’t afraid of the tsunami because she is originally from the Philippines.

“We’re used to crisis,” she said.

At 5:30 a.m. there were no long lines at the McDonald’s drive-through lane, but an hour later, the lines were at least six to seven cars deep.

Lindsay Ball, the complex area superintendent for public schools in Lahaina, Molokai, Lanai and Hana, was on Oahu Saturday morning along with dozens of high school wrestlers entered in this weekend’s state tournament.

“There a little bit of confusion here,” Ball said by cell phone as he and the wrestling contingent were walking to the Blaisdell Center around 7 a.m. Saturday.

Within the same hour, Ball said he and the Maui wrestlers got word that the state wrestling competition had been officially rescheduled to 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

“Everybody’s working feverishly on the phone to change flights and make other arrangements,” Ball said. He said many of the parents have been calling the wrestling coaches to check the status of their children, who, according to Ball, were safe and out of any harm’s way of a tsunami.

“We’ll have to se what happens with this tsunami,” Ball said.

Ball said he was prepared to cancel any events at schools within the tsunami zone. The only such campus in his complex area is Kamehameha III Elementary on Front Street in Lahaina.

Ball received confirmation that there were no reservations made for use of the facility on Saturday.

Christ The King School Principal Bernadette Lopez checked into her office at 5 a.m. Saturday after being alerted to the tsunami warning.

Lopez said she used her time in the office to clear out any “critical” documents and to contact faculty and staff residing in low-lying areas to advise them of the tsunami.

“I’m real confident,” Lopez said of her staff and students’ response to the pending tsunami.

She said a geophysicist from Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on Oahu visited her campus two weeks ago to provide information on tsunamis, including the cause of such natural phenomena and safety measures to take.

A video of a tsunami on the Big Island was also shown to the students and staff at Christ The King School on the corner of Wakea and Puunene Avenues, which is a designated low-lying area that would be evacuated in the wake of a tsunami.

“The message was to stay calm,” Lopez recalled Saturday morning. “The idea was for the students to also be empowered that they could help their parents and provide correct information.”

Sacred Hearts School in Lahaina also recently received a visit from a tsunami expert and with officials with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

Like Lopez, Sacred Hearts School Principal Susan Hendricks said she was feeling confident that her students and families were well-equipped with dealing with the tsunami warning.

“I think they’ve been educated. They know not to panic,” Hendricks said.

“The children have a plan, they have a list of stuff they need to have and all the information they need to deal with this.”