Water Ways
Ray Pendleton

Get ready for Hawaii’s
next tsunami

Considering that our recent headline news has mostly dealt with the disastrous tsunami that struck in South Asia, perhaps now is a good time for all of us in Hawaii to make a New Year's resolution to review our plans to cope with such an event here.

Anyone in this state must consider the threat of tsunamis as an ever-present danger due to the continuous seismic activity around the Pacific Rim that creates these deadly waves.

Unlike the countries in South Asia that hadn't had such an experience in anyone's lifetime, our state has an ample record of tsunamis and their effects that goes back centuries.

In fact, tsunamis have historically created Hawaii's greatest natural disasters. In just two of our more recent events -- in 1946 and 1960 -- more than 200 people lost their lives, compared to fewer than 10 due to hurricanes in the past 100 years.

Of course, these events were prior to the advent of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center that can ordinarily provide advanced notice unless the earth's movement is along our island chain itself.

But, even with warning, what should boaters in particular do to prepare for tsunamis? As I have noted in Water Ways before, the best advice is contained in the state's Hurricane Safety Manual that is available at all harbor master offices.

In it there are several pages devoted to why creating a personal boat owner's evacuation plan is so important and what must be done to avoid becoming a statistic.

Boats stored on trailers in "evacuation zones" (maps can be found in most phone books) should be moved out at the time a tsunami warning is declared.

Moored boats, on the other hand, should be taken offshore to waters at least 1,200 feet deep until official "all-clear" announcements are made.

As a recent issue of "Lectronic Latitude" reported, "Thailand's and Phuket's western coastline suffered extreme shoreline damage and many lives lost -- whilst many yachts hardly noticed the event, e.g.: in Nai Harn Bay which faces west, there were over 90 yachts anchored out from the surf line -- they merely rose up then down as the tsunami passed under them to go on to the beaches and beyond."

And because that very tsunami that passed under those vessels likely destroyed nearby harbor facilities, the state manual also advises boat owners to have enough fuel, food and water aboard for at least 24 hours.

Having a good supply of first aid and water rescue equipment aboard would also be a plus because, as the manual says, boaters should be prepared to assist emergency personnel involved in rescue operations.

As a last resort, the manual states, if owners can't move their boats out of an evacuation zone, they should consider removing valuable items such as outboards, radios and navigation gear, before securing their vessels and heading for higher ground.

As it's often said, it's not a question of if, just when. So why not add tsunami planning to your New Year's resolution list?

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Ray Pendleton is a free-lance writer based in Honolulu. His column runs Saturdays in the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by e-mail at raypendleton@mac.com.

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