Tsunami time rolls around every spring


POSTED: Sunday, March 29, 2009

With the first day of April almost here, I am reminded that it was on April Fool's Day 16 years ago that this column first appeared in the Star-Bulletin's sports section. How time flies, eh?

Still, more importantly, it also comes to mind that April has been designated Tsunami Awareness Month—a good time for recreational boaters to reassess their plans for protecting their vessels from the devastating effects of tsunamis—or tidal waves, as they were misnamed in earlier times.

I doubt there are many people who didn't see the incredible destructive force of the tsunami that was generated by a large earthquake in South Asia in 2004. Film of that event was in the media repeatedly for months after and should have been a graphic reminder of what could happen along any of our shorelines.

If an earthquake occurred in Hawaii and created a tsunami, it would likely strike quickly throughout our island chain and give us very little time to react. But boaters, if they are prepared, can respond properly when they are warned of more distant tsunami-producing events.

Most boat owners here hopefully have a copy of the Hawaii Boater's Hurricane Safety Manual that was produced in 1998 by the Department of Land and Natural Resources in cooperation with the University of Hawaii's Sea Grant Program.

The manual contains a number of practical suggestions for boaters for developing an emergency response plan for tsunamis as well as hurricanes; however, the DLNR has not made it available for several years.

Among the manual's recommendations for boat owners are:

» Tow trailered boats outside the evacuation zone as soon as a tsunami warning is declared.

» After a warning has been declared, move nontrailered boats offshore into water more than 200 fathoms (1,200 feet) and at least 2 miles out from any channel entrance prior to the estimated time of the tsunami.

When going offshore provide for enough fuel, food, water and other necessities for those on board for at least 24 hours.

» Find an alternative to driving yourself to the marina when going offshore so you don't save a $16,000 boat only to lose a $30,000 car.

» Be prepared to eventually go into a harbor other than your own, as the facility you left may be damaged.

» Give serious consideration to not going to sea if a warning comes during a severe storm.

» Create a priority list of items on board your boat that can be removed if it is to be left at its mooring.

» Complete all security actions and leave the harbor at least 1 hour prior to the estimated time of the tsunami, as there may be roadblocks and unusual traffic congestion.

» Designate an alternate person to carry out your plan if you are unable to do so.

» Boaters who find safety offshore should be prepared to rescue victims who have been swept out to sea.

» And remember, once you hear the sirens, it's too late to make a plan.