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Spirit Bird Media

Kauai Tsunami : I just wanted a hot shower.

Being a beach bum doesn’t always smell like salt water.

We had been travelling for days without a proper shower. As I excitedly walked towards the bathroom with the shampoo in my hands, there is a soft knock on the door. A Hawaiian man smiles at me kindly and starts explaining the situation in the calmest voice:

  • Hawaiian hotel staff: “I believe you have to evacuate the hotel mam.”
  • Confused self: “And why is that?”
  • Hawaiian hotel staff: “There is a Tsunami warning. Everything is going to be okay, you just need to get to higher ground.”
  • Shower deprived self: “Do I have time for a shower at least?”
  • Hawaiian hotel staff: “Not really, it’s best to evacuate now.”

The Tsunami Evacuation

What ?? Why is he so calm about this? In the moment of a second, it’s like a movie in my head: everyone gets stuck in traffic and there is only one road out of town. Kauai, also called the garden island, only has 65 000 residents and there is one main road that circles the island. It’s pitch dark and we are driving to “higher grounds”. We have no idea where we are driving to, we just have to make sure that we are high enough from sea level. On our way to destination unknown, there is a school bus in the ditch and locals panicking saying they have never seen it this bad before. Great.

We finally park our car on the side of a residential street where many other cars were already parked. And then we wait. I have 4% battery left on my phone and I don’t have internet. We have no other way of keeping up to date with this Tsunami warning but to listen to the local radio station. The Tsunami warning sirens are loud and they ring every 2 minutes or so. We wait.

The Waiting Game

We left the hotel at 8:30pm and I stink. All I wanted was a shower and a bed, which is nothing to complain about when a natural disaster is about to strike us. I have never felt this far away from home, on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean. Kauai is the only island where there are no cameras on the beaches monitoring the size of the waves. All we have to do is wait, and listen to the news as the waves hit Big Island first, and then Kauai last.

We wait, and wait, and wait.

It’s now 1:30am and the sirens have stopped. Is it all over? Can we drive back to the hotel now? We listen closely to the island music playing on the radio, it’s a happy song. The Tsunami warning is over and my shower has never felt so close.

The Facts

The 2012 Haida Gwaii earthquake was the second largest Canadian earthquake ever recorded by a seismometer. “A tsunami warning was issued for the North American Coast from the Alaskan Panhandle to Vancouver Island. Hawaii was also placed on alert, and over 100,000 people were evacuated to higher ground. Despite the earthquake’s large magnitude, no major structural damage was reported from any of the population centres in the vicinity.”  Because of the original earthquake in Haida Gwaii and also its aftershocks, “the famed hot springs in Gwaii Haanas National Park on Hotspring Island dried up. “

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