3.22.2011

Wedding from Hell: Surviving Tsunamis

 Just another day in the neighborhood.


Good god. Let's never do that again, shall we? I am about to weave you a tale that would make the children from Lemony Persnicket's "Unfortunate Events" gnash their teeth in anxiety. Putting it shortly, everything was a freakin' abomination of Biblical proportions.

In that "wrath of god" way, let's talk about the biggest calamity, and one that's not terrible humorous: Japan's 9.0 earthquake off the Sendai Coast, in the Honshu Prefecture. If you think 9.0 sounds pretty massive, that's because it is...It is the 4th largest earthquake in recorded history: And, because of the algorithm used, it actually winds up being about 1000 times more powerful than the ones that struck Kobe and Haiti. And that ignores the hundreds of magnitude 5-6.6 quakes that were started all along the Ring of Fire...


Hundreds....Everywhere.
Surrounded by water, and unstable earth for thousands of miles.


And, as the people of the Pacific Rim could tell you, yours truly included, this wasn't even the worst of what was to come...No, the worst --for that day, at least-- was the massive tsunami that was spawned. A tsunami isn't like a beach wave, that undulates in gently and floods everything...It's a buckling of the sea floor, which raises the water level by tens and dozens of feet. When you live near the coast, all it takes is 2-4 feet to flood you out. Japan got hit by an immediate 30 foot wall of water, killing tens of thousands and causing tens of billions of dollars of damage....


And it was without warning....


Sure, you say, that's Japan...What does that Island archipelago have to do with Hawaii, which is 2000 miles away?  Let me answer that with this observation. We, like Japan, are on a fault line; with our shores being simply seafloor ramps from the earth's bottom. That makes any sort of rise in the water level potentially deadly. And, since we largely live on the coasts, it makes any tsunami damage potentially crippling.

There's also the matter that Tsunami energy travels thousands of miles, largely unimpeded.



Note the Purple area of tsunami energy: It's half the size of Australia...


I'll spare you my evacuation details: Suffice it to say, I spent a sleepless night, with a dozen people from my wedding party, getting drunk in my office. After the dawn arose, we moved to a "tent city" further up the hill. The scariest part, as the tsunami is blasting us with 8-12 walls of water, you can't hear a thing...dead silence except for the sound of waves and water crashing that you normally here.

But it wasn't just a little splashing: It was an inundation along the West Coast. 53 homes destroyed, 1 swept off to sea, dozens of businesses and resorts damaged/destroyed, hundreds of people out of work, and $300 million dollars worth of damage in toll.

And this was a "small tsunami"


This guy is a dumbass, but I'm glad he was...
You can get an idea of what 8-12 feet of water coming at you looks like.
...and it went on for hours...



This says nothing of the irradiation coming our way via the trade winds, Japanese refugees, destroyed economies, and a week of dangerous surf, dangerous critters and god-knows-what washing up on the shores of Paradise.
But, one of the saddest things is that Pu'uhonua o' Honaunau, the City of Refuge, was destroyed (yes, where I was going to be married two days later). For two thousand years, this was a place of asylum for those who violated the caste system, committed taboo (kapu) acts, or were displaced survivors of war. If you made it to the city, you were granted clemency, if not then, like so many other acts in Hawaii at the time, you were killed.

We don't have pictures yet, but my understanding is that the Great Wall has been completely destroyed, the ancient canoe village washed out to sea, the great temple (heiau) damaged, and myriad human remains swept away and uncovered after hundreds of years of rest.



No word on the tikis...


 

Thus, while we were comparatively lucky, all is not right in paradise. And it's a damn shame. But, not a single person died here, and for that, we are even more fortunate.






-d.s.

1 comment:

  1. This is crazy. I'm glad to hear you made it through.

    ReplyDelete