April is Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii. Each year, tsunami response exercises are held by civil defense, military and first responders. The recent earthquake and resulting tsunami from Japan last month certainly highlights the need for everyone to be aware and prepared.
On April 1, 1946, what is now thought to have been an 8.6 earthquake in Alaska caused the most damaging tsunami in Hawaiian history, killing 159 people and destroying Hilo’s waterfront. Another deadly series of waves in Hilo killed 61 people in 1960 as a result of an 8.3 quake in Chile. There were also destructive tsunamis in 1952, 1957 and 1975.
The 1975 tsunami was generated in less than a minute after a 7.2 earthquake off the coast of the Big Island. In situations like that, there is not much time for warnings or evacuations, so if you feel a big earthquake here and are near the ocean, get moving. Two people camping near the ocean died that day.
In 1948, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was founded. Since then, worldwide alert systems have vastly improved the detection and monitoring of tsunamis, as well as the rapid communication between countries. On the first business day of each month, tsunami warning sirens are tested statewide. If you hear a siren at any other time, it’s time to get to higher ground. If you live, work, shop or visit in tsunami evacuation zones, know the route to safely leave the area ahead of time. You might want to have pre-planned meeting places with family or friends.
And if you live in such a zone, you’ll be glad you prepared your bug-out bag ahead of time as well. I’ll be writing more on emergency kits soon.