Dr. Drew's Infrequent Blog

15 October 2006

My First Earthquake

Beautiful but ominous skies

October is fast becoming my least favorite month. The second anniversary of the Manoa Flood is coming up in two weeks, but today’s natural disaster was a 6.6 earthquake on the Island of Hawaii. The tremor woke me up shortly after 7:00 this morning. After a second tremor, six minutes later, I sought shelter under my desk. The violent shaking stopped shortly thereafter. Minutes later I tried to check online or on the radio for a detailed explanation. Alas, the power died minutes later. It was off for several hours, which has shut down much of Oahu.

Reading by Candlelight

I had a portable radio and kept searching for details. Most stations were knocked off the air, and the only three left were playing prerecorded information for at least 20 minutes. I have a non-cordless telephone and the lines were live, so I was able to call my family on the Continent to explain that I am fine. My mother is such a worrywart. With the apartment dark and the power off, I decided to go back to sleep.

A reporter from a Minneapolis radio station woke me up a few minutes later. I don’t know if they ran my interview on WCCO. If they did, it only shows you what a slow news day Sunday was. The problem obviously was on the Big Island, not in Oahu. Two hospitals and a few hotels around Kona have been evacuated because of gas leaks or structural damage, and at least one home seems to have gone up in smoke.

Farmer's Market

I don’t have much else of excitement to report. I am trying to be good about keeping the phone lines free, not using much water, and staying off the roads. I walked to the Manoa Marketplace to get some fruit at the Farmer’s Market, and check out the situation.

Long's Manoa: Closed

Long’s was closed, as were most places. The Farmer’s Market was still running, and a few restaurants were operating with gas grills. Safeway was also open until 4:00 using emergency generators to run cash registers, but without enough power for freezers, refrigerators or lights, so many items were available at half-price. I picked up a lox at half price for lunch.

No Frozen Foods (Earthquake/Power-Outtage)

It was an overcast day, so after about 4:30, I was living by candlelight and battery-operated light, radio, and Macintosh laptop. This lasted through the rest of the night until 11:00 pm in Manoa (almost 16 hours after power was cut).

Earthquake/Power Outtage Still Life

In retrospect and summary, I am grateful that no one was hurt or killed here in Oahu, and that property damage was minimal here. Of course, the damage will continue for a long time beyond the original estimates. I am sure our state budget’s current windfall will go to paying for rebuilding Kona. I also fear that stories of trapped tourists will harm our state’s biggest industry, tourism. The many basic problems also reminded me that we are far from ready on a personal, state, or national emergency. On a personal level, it was almost more luck than planning that I had some bottled water, cash, candles, and a battery-operated radio. Had this gone on for much longer, I should have had a propane gas stove and more bottled water, canned foods, cash, and candles. The media and state also did a pretty poor job of communicating news. What if there had been a Tsunami? The radio announcers who stayed on the air did a fine job to some extent, but there were no announcements for almost a half-hour. A bigger problem was how they relied on callers to gather news. Many announcers just agreed with whatever a caller said even though it went against what experts had asked about staying home. The result was a lot of conflicting information, and tips for places to drive to. That is Aloha friendly, but hardly ideal for a state of emergency. I won’t even start talking about the federal response except to point out that radio announcers (and probably many listeners) started laughing when they were told not to worry, and that FEMA experts were on their way.

Everything is supposed to be back to normal by Monday, including my class. Something tells me normal won’t exactly describe conditions, but life must go on.

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