Surviving the next tsunami
There's nothing like hearing about an eight-point-something earthquake in Tonga -- as we did early Wednesday -- to make those of us living along our coastlines a bit nervous.
As most people who live around the Pacific Rim know by now, earthquakes may produce tsunamis, or what were once called tidal waves. And with Tonga located south of Hawaii, a tsunami from that direction would certainly threaten some very important real estate.
Fortunately, the tsunami watch had been downgraded to just an advisory by midmorning, but it was a very good reminder nevertheless for boaters in particular to make or reassess their plans for surviving such a threat.
After all, there's little question that boats moored in any of our harbors can be in jeopardy. But their owners can take actions to make them somewhat less vulnerable with help from a booklet produced by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Program.
The booklet -- the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Safety Manual -- is not new and is more about hurricanes, but as it contains several pages devoted to tsunamis and how to survive them, it is well worth reading or rereading.
Above all, it tells boaters to develop an evacuation plan based primarily on what sort of boat they own.
For instance, trailered boats can be protected by merely towing them to a location outside of the evacuation zones pictured in our phone books.
On the other hand, boats kept in the water should be moved offshore into water at least 1,200 feet deep to avoid the threat of a tsunami's destructive surge.
And although moving a boat out of the harbor sounds simple, there is more involved than just going a couple of miles offshore, and that's where the planning comes in.
Boat owners are advised to have enough fuel, food, water and other essentials, to last at least 24 hours. They are also advised to have adequate means of receiving emergency information being broadcast before, during and after a tsunami.
The manual warns boaters not to return to port until the "All Clear" announcement has been given as damaging waves and currents may create hazardous conditions in the harbors and entrance channels for some time after a tsunami's initial impact.
In fact, a tsunami could possibly damage a boater's marina so severely that it may be impossible to return to it. In such cases boaters should be prepared to go to other facilities or to temporarily anchor offshore.
The manual also points out that boaters should be alert for people who may have been swept out to sea and to be prepared to yield to or assist emergency personnel carrying out rescue or salvage operations.
If the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Safety Manual is not a part of your library, I would advise picking up a copy at your nearest state Harbor Master's office.
You'll certainly feel better when the next tsunami warning sounds.