DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Most of the shops at Ala Moana Center were closed because the power failure, but L&L Drive Inn was able to stay open, using gas to cook. Cashier Jin Yong Feng worked by flashlight, and the eatery did brisk business until it ran out of food. CLICK FOR LARGE
'Everything was just crashing down'
From falling dishes and boulders on the Big Island to small tremors on Kauai, residents and visitors throughout the island chain were affected by the consequences of yesterday's events
HAWAII RESIDENTS might have awakened yesterday morning and wondered if their island state had drifted a bit too close to California.
Even Big Island residents accustomed to tremors were shocked at the fortitude, and quickly checked on each other before beginning cleanup efforts.
At Malama Solomon's house in Kamuela, drywall cracked, and "everything kind of fell out of the cupboards and closets," said the lifelong Big Island resident who is running for lieutenant governor. "The quake was quite substantial. It was one of the largest we've ever experienced."
Her sister, Hulali Solomon, drove from Waikoloa along Queen Kaahumanu Highway about an hour after the quake struck, and said rocks and boulders had fallen into the road and stopped traffic. Before police arrived, a few men got out of their vehicles in an attempt to clear the road of enough debris to open one lane, but much of it had to wait for the help of bulldozers.
Hulali Solomon also relayed an account from a friend in Waimea whose house had burned down. One report indicated that a power line had fallen on the garage and started the fire, though another attributed the flames to a gas line that ruptured. Nobody was hurt, and the fire was brought under control before spreading to other homes.
Elizabeth Lindsey said her Waimea house "was swinging so dramatically, I couldn't imagine the structure was going to stay intact." Her television was thrown to the floor, paintings fell off the walls, furniture moved and kitchen contents broke.
At a nearby market, people were not allowed to go inside, but were provided a list so employees could shop for them until power was restored.
Waimea resident Joan Namkoong said the earthquake moved her 1,000-pound free-standing fireplace a couple of inches. In addition, everything fell out of her refrigerator and freezer, and dishes and pots on open shelves fell to the floor.
Namkoong methodically approached what she estimated would be several days of cleanup and repair. "I'm not sure I want to put stuff back on my shelves," she said, "because we're still feeling the aftershocks, and there have been a lot of them."
Joann Cusumano has lived in Waimea since 2002, and said, "Things were just flying off my kitchen cabinets. I told my husband, 'Let's get out of the house,' because everything was just crashing down."
Cusumano also reported structural damage to her house, a chimney that broke and a wood-burning stove that shifted. However, she was thankful that her husband had not been asleep, as a large picture fell and landed right on his pillow. "This is definitely the scariest experience (I've been through)," she said.
On Oahu, a rush on goods
IN THE MIDST of crises, island residents are quickly reminded of how isolated they really are, and the stories on Oahu reflect the anxious behavior that typically follows.
For example, in some Windward markets, items ran out in this order: ice, batteries, beer and cigarettes.
"My biggest problem is that I can't run the cash register, so I'm having to memorize prices," said a store clerk who would only give his first name, Nelson, at Lake Liquor in Enchanted Lake Shopping Center. "Everything is selling, but especially ice and batteries. We ran out of those right off."
Nelson said that the store opened at 7 a.m., and he was just settling behind the counter when "there was this big loud noise and everything started to shake. Beer and liquor bottles were coming off the shelves, and we lost some stock due to breakage." Customers stocking up on beer, soda, bottled water and cigarettes were also hungry for information. "I had to tell them, 'All we know is what you know, whatever they're saying on the radio,'" he said.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
After yesterday's earthquakes knocked out power statewide, people flocked to stores for provisions. As hopeful shoppers waited in line at Star Market in Moiliili, employees took people in one at a time to guide them through aisles in the darkened store. CLICK FOR LARGE
Enchanted Lake McDonald's employee Jon-Jon Rogers lit up a freshly purchased cigarette and exhaled. "I've been looking for cigarettes for an hour," he said. "All the 7-Elevens between here and my place in Waimanalo are open, but they're only allowing one customer in at a time. Long damn lines."
Rogers was one of very few who slept through the earthquake. "What awakened me was the kids outside yelling. They said it felt like the ground had turned into a waterbed."
Enchanted Lake security guard Chad Guerreiro said the shopping center had been quiet all morning, with the only customers coming in for water. "They're mostly concerned about power, and they've been very polite -- no pushing."
Safeway cashier Erik Mueller was not scheduled to work until Sunday afternoon, but rushed in to see what he could do. He had a radio on at his counter so customers could listen to updates. Safeway had a generator running, and customers could even use debit cards. Many opted for cash back.
Kaneohe policeman Neal Pang was one of several officers assigned to assure orderly lines into the Kaneohe Shell station, the only gas station open for miles. The line of cars stretched several blocks. "Everybody's been very polite but kind of on edge," he said, "afraid they're going to run out of gas right on the street."
Shell station owner and operator Bob Sawinski looked at the long line of cars and figured the gas would run out in 15 minutes. "A lot of folks who have been waiting for a few hours are going to be disappointed," he said. "Most have been fine, but there have been some freaked-out cut-ins."
The station was operable because Sawinski had invested in a generator. "I got it when I opened the station 16 years ago, and we use it all the time but usually it's only 20 minutes or so. This is the worst ever."
Even when he runs out of gas, Sawinski will not be able to get more for a while. "The refinery has no generators to power the pumps to fill the trucks," he said. "We've asked the refinery for years to get backup power, but they never have."
Pahoa resident Kate Burlingame was having coffee on her lanai when the house began rattling. "You know how trees sway side to side in a breeze? The forest behind the house was swaying up and down. I could see the landscape rippling in waves."
At Foodland Beretania, where Jenna Wong was filling in, people started lining up patiently outside the door at 8 a.m., where workers let them in a few at a time.
"They've been buying water, bottled juices, grilled things," said Wong, who added that the supermarket started to discount refrigerated items by early afternoon.
"Everyone's been really good," she said. "They're just glad they can use their credit cards."
Similar lines formed outside Safeway Beretania and the Ward Avenue Ba-Le Sandwich shop, where people waiting for ham-and-veggie sandwiches traded stories about the earthquakes as they planned ahead for a possible evening without power.
Stores at Ward Warehouse were dark, with signs on storefronts apologizing to customers and noting the loss of power. Across the street, Richard Craft's plate lunch wagon had a line of about 50 people.
"The line has been this way all day, since 10 a.m.," Craft said. The wagon is open seven days a week, so it had food ready for Sunday, but Craft was unsure how long it would last if the demand kept up.
The line was just a minor inconvenience to Alan Lee of Kaimuki. "I'm really hungry, so I don't care," he said.
Stores at Ala Moana Center also were dark, although dozens of people crowded outside a few of the food shops that opened to serve whatever they could.
Patrons at L&L Express waited in the dark as employees used flashlights to navigate. "I don't even want to get in there because the line's too long," said George Chang, who drove in from Salt Lake looking for anything that was open.
Army Pfc. Mark Harding was hungry after having stayed at a friend's dormitory at the University of Hawaii at Manoa overnight.
"They had no food there," Harding said. "We're probably going to do the whole potato chips-and-beer thing."
Susan Anderson had just came from church and stopped by Star Market because it was open, and had planned to buy some powdered milk.
"I have food at home but it's limited," Anderson said. "I'm a little short on powdered milk, and I'll buy some for now because it doesn't spoil."
Most, however, took things in stride. Robert Mehry of Waikiki waited outside Don Quijote but did not seem to mind. "We've been here about 20 minutes. ... It's no big deal," he said. "We've been in earthquakes in Japan before, so we knew what it was. There's nothing much we can do, so we're just taking it easy."
And everyone shared Malama Solomon's attitude about what was truly important at the end of the day. "We just thank God that nobody got hurt," she said, "and that's the main thing."
Al Braidwood just followed the crowd.
"I've been running around looking for a place to have some coffee," the 72-year-old Manoa resident said.
But as residents moved about, civility seemed to be the order of the day.
Traffic police guided cars through busy intersections, and many motorists treated unguarded intersections as a four-way stop.
Police Chief Boisse Correa praised island motorists.
"We haven't lost the streets," Correa said. "We have a very good community."
'Shook like hell' on Maui
ON MAUI the buildings swayed and shook, prompting many residents to evacuate their dwellings.
The earthquake interrupted some airlines' flights and halted traffic along rural highways, triggering a rockslide on Hana Highway near Keanae and suspected structural damage to a bridge at Manawainui Stream in Kaupo, according to initial county reports.
"I thought my house would crack open," said Toshi Yonemura, a Wailuku resident.
Yonemura, 89, said the earthquakes felt stronger than any he had experienced on Maui, except for one in 1938.
Paukukalo resident Julia Villegas, who is undergoing treatment for cancer and was waiting in the Maui Memorial Medical Center emergency room, said she fell in her bathroom and hit her head and hip.
"It shook like hell. My house really shook," she said.
Oregon visitor Jim Wilson said he and his wife, Molly, were staying on the 16th floor of the Hyatt Regency Maui when the building began to sway about two to three feet for a couple of minutes.
"It was like a jerking play ... pretty violent," Wilson said.
Larry Wilson of Vancouver, Wash., said he was sleeping in a second-floor unit at the Kahana Village when the building began to shake for at least 45 seconds.
"It was hard to tell how severe it was going to get," he said. "It started out slow and got more intense."
Kauai gets off easy
THE EARTHQUAKE was strong enough to wake up the Kauai residents still asleep yesterday morning, but the Garden Isle was easily the least affected of the islands.
No damage or injuries were reported, county officials said.
The first thought, said a number of island residents, was of a tsunami that might affect the island, causing quite a bit of worry. One Kauai man who wished not to be identified worried that it was a North Korean missile attack, especially after losing radio and television stations but not power.
After the initial worry, "it was just a typical Sunday morning," said Kapaa resident Karl Heintze.
Electricity, cell phone and land-line phone service were never lost on Kauai, officials said, and Lihue Airport remained open, despite delays and the cancellation of a number of interisland flights.
Star-Bulletin reporters Katherine Nichols, Burl Burlingame, Jason Genegabus, Nadine Kam, Gary T. Kubota, Tom Finnegan, B.J. Reyes and Gene Park contributed to this report.