Tsunami hits Maui

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Photo by Dylan Godsey

A Maui County worker hauls jetsom from the Waiehu coastline. Wood, rocks, sea life and debris were left behind after the March 11 tsunami surged inland.

By Dylan Godsey, News Writer

KAHULUI-On March 10, 2011, one massive earthquake rocked the Richter scale at a magnitude of 8.9 off the eastern coast of Japan and generated a tsunami that hit the island nation leaving 433 dead and 800+ missing thus far, as reported by the Kyodo News Agency in Japan.

This devastating earthquake also sent a tsunami west towards Hawai’i and the continental U.S. The tsunami wave hit Hawai’i at approximately 3:07 A.M. HST on March 11. Though some coastal areas experienced inundation from the wave, the devastation was not anywhere near as widespread as that suffered by the Japanese, and no deaths were reported. One emergency worker was injured preparing for the tsunami on the Big Island. No injuries were reported in Maui County.

Damage to buildings, displaced vehicles, major flooding, and widespread debris were some of the visible aftermath. Hardest hit were the Kona area of the Big Island and the harbor areas of Maui.

On Maui, roads were blocked and houses were evacuated after a tsunami warning was passed on throughout the state last night. Maui residents in low lying and beachfront areas evacuated their homes and travelled to higher ground.

Maui Mall was closed along with other coastal businesses. Inland and upcountry businesses, like Wal-Mart, stayed open during the tsunami watch. Stores were filled with residents stocking up on emergency supplies and gas stations had people lined up to fill their tanks. The upcountry Shell station ran out of all gas except for super.

Families and staff of Kamehameha Schools Maui were notified late last night that school had been canceled for today. Administrators are discussing how they will be handling third quarter grade reporting, as today was to be the last day of the quarter. Parents will be informed when a decision is reached and a procedure established.

Parent/Community Coordinator Lokelani Patrick emailed an announcement extending the deadline for Ho’olaule’a pre-orders to Monday, March 14.

Through the night the people of Maui stayed safe, but in the morning the aftermath of the tsunami became visible. Flooding in the area of the Kahului/Waiehu coastline reached up to Lower Beach Rd. Police officers were stationed on the roads blocking flooded areas until county workers could assess and clear the damage.

Many large stones washed up from the ocean onto Waiehu Beach Road, and most of the stones and debris flooded into residential driveways. Large county trucks carried away pile after pile of wood among other debris collected from various parts of Kahului.

Ma’alaea and Lahaina Harbors were closed today, while authorities dealt with overturned boats and floating debris.

“It was just eye-opening to see the amount of real damage that was actually caused because the last tsunami warning made me think this one was not a threat,” said Keanu Franco, senior at Kamehameha Schools Maui.

Although Maui took precautions similar to last night’s after a tsunami warning on February 28, 2010, the surge in that event turned out to be minimal with no inundation reported.