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Kauai closes highways as tsunami approaches


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POSTED: Saturday, February 27, 2010


Kauai was nearly shut down by 9:30 a.m., as the main highways that ring the island were closed by police in low-lying areas.

Police were allowing traffic to exit the inundation areas, but not enter them more than an hour prior to the tsunami event.

Mary Daubert, Kauai county spokeswoman, said there are no mandatory evacuations, but residents were warned via radio, text message, phone message, television, and even through the air with Civil Air Patrol, to evacuate low-lying areas.

Evacuation shelters opened across the island, and at least 50 people had showed up at Kapaa High School by 9 a.m.

"We're advising everyone to stay off the roadways and off the phones as much as possible," Daubert added.

County park rangers had cleared county beach parks of campers, and those in the remote areas of the Na Pali Coast and the island of Niihau were contacted using a helicopter and a loudspeaker, Daubert added.

Andy and Indre McCullough were visiting from Australia to surf and camp at Anini beach. They awoke to the sound of sirens, but didn't react until a Civil Defense airplane flew along the beach and issued verbal warnings to all campers. They quickly packed up their gear and moved to higher ground overlooking Hanalei Bay, where people gathered to watch the ocean from a safe vantage point.

Debra Bossler, co-owner of Bubba Burger's in Kapaa, made an early-morning run to the restaurant to gather up the business' computers, photo albums, and important paperwork, she said.

She closed and locked the doors, and headed back up to her home, which overlooks Kealia Valley and the ocean.

"We're just sitting outside keeping an eye on things," Bossler added.

On the west side of Kauai, traffic was steady, but slow, coming out of the Mana Plain, a low-lying area that stretches from the west end of the Na Pali Coast to Hanapepe.

"We've been through Hurricane Iniki, so we're highly aware," said Brian Duncan, an employee at the St. Regis Princeville and a resident of the Garden Isle for 25 years. Before Kuhio Highway closed at 9:30 a.m., the roads and gas stations were "packed," he said, as people fled low-lying areas. But the aloha spirit remained intact. "Everybody's very friendly toward each other. There's a calmness you may not see other places because of our experience."

Syngenta in Kekaha was closed and evacuated early this morning, as well as a number of other agricultural concerns on the west side. 

Kauai Bus canceled routes, Daubert said, and were on stand-by if needed to help if evacuations are necessary.

Numerous events across the Garden Island were canceled, including sports games, a truck show, and even two funerals were postponed.

The Wailua Golf Course was also canceled, but the Kauai Community Correctional Center across the highway was not evacuated, according to John Miyajima, corrections supervisor.

"We are prepared if things change," Miyajima added. Buses and vehicles were on stand-by to transport the prisoners to a higher location if necessary.

Kauai officials activated the Emergency Operations Center at 130 a.m., and started preparing shortly after, said Mary Daubert, Kauai County spokeswoman.