Dodging a tsunami in Hawaii — again


What do you mean, everything will probably be alright,” Kari snapped at the person on the other end of the line.

Kari never snaps at anyone on the phone, so that got my attention.

We’d just come back from a day of touring Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island, a potent reminder of the forces of nature that control us.

She looked at me and mouthed the words: tsunami.

Turns out it was a courtesy call from the owner of our vacation rental — a rental that happened to be located a block from the beach.

Two hours from now, the forecasters warned, we could be underwater.

Or not.

I wish I could say this was our first tsunami evacuation. It wasn’t.

Two years ago, my son and I survived another one in Maui after the Japanese earthquake.

The threat of a monster wave hitting you is disconcerting, but when it happens at night, it’s worse. In the darkness, you can’t be sure of exactly what you’re seeing. Is that just a little rain, or is the road about to flood?

We packed our belongings in record time and sped into town, idled in a long line at the gas station to fill the tank on our rental and then waited for the wave.

The mood in Keaau was festive. Several Halloween parties were raging, and the costumed locals seemed oblivious of the threat, despite the intermittent sirens.

“I could never live here,” my oldest son, Aren told me. “Tsunamis are too scary.”

Scarier than the hurricanes that hammer us in Florida every summer? Maybe in a different way.

The evacuation order was lifted around 1:30 a.m., and we returned to our house. Next time we’re here, Aren wants to stay on the mountain.

“But you know,” I told him. “There’s a volcano there.”

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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