At 6 am on the dot, civil defense sirens across the state of Hawaii bellowed a deafening barrage of warnings, alerting people along the coast that a tsunami warning has been issued throughout the Pacific as a result of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that devastated parts of Chile early this morning.
According to John Cummings, Oahu Emergency Management Department spokesman, in an interview with The Honolulu Advertiser, “if you live anywhere in the evacuation zone, you have to evacuate…This is a serious event. We’re going to treat this as a destructive-type tsunami.”
In the moments immediately following the civil defense sirens, Hawaii residents flooded their local gas stations and supermarketes. Along Kapahulu avenue in Honolulu, cars could be seen stretched around the block at some gas stations. The local Safeway in the town of Kaimuki was swollen to the brim with people stocking up on food and supplies.
“I’ve been here since we opened the store, and I’ve never seen it this crowded,” said one cashier. “Everyone is stocking up on everything.”
On the Big Island of Hawaii, an island that bore the brunt of a deadly tsunami in both 1946 and 1960, the town of Kona has been essentially shutdown. The earthquake that spawned the 1960 tsunami that hit the Big Island killed 61 people. According to CJ Kanuha, a Big Island local, “at 6 am, the sirens went off and you could see all of the lights in the hotel just turn on at once. From then, they basically closed off all the beaches and put everyone on alert. It feels pretty surreal over here right now.
“The condo where I live is really close to the ocean and I can see it from where I’m at right now, but I’m lucky enough to be pretty high up so I think I’ll be okay. I’ve been up since 3 am helping pretty much everybody out over here, all my friends and family. Right now, I’m planning on staying in my condo.”
On the island of Kauai, Malia Manuel was planning on an early morning session when she learned of the tsunami warning.
“I was gonna go for a dawn patrol but when I woke up I heard that there was a tsunami warning. I talked to my parents about it and then went back to bed around 5 am. At 6, all of the sirens went off. And then we got a bunch of phone calls from the county warning us about what was happening. We actually just went to the store the day before and loaded up on supplies like water, so we’re not planning on getting a bunch of supplies. We should be okay if something happens.”
Accoriding to reports, “The largest waves are expected to be around 6 feet and will are estimated to hit the islands around 11 am,” said Victor Sardina, a geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.”
Sardina warned, however, that the wave heights are just a preliminary estimate that could change once additional data is gathered.
Stay tuned as we’ll continue to bring you on-the-ground reports from Hawaii as this situation develops.