Sunday, April 1, 2007

My Experiences with the Hawaii Earthquake and What I Should Tell You

My Experiences with the Hawaii Earthquake and What I Should Tell You
by: Sensei J. Richard Kirkham B.Sc.

Aloha everyone from Oahu

My family is safe and sound. On Sunday October 15th 2006 at 7:08 AM I was lying in bed when I felt a vibration. For some reason I recall thinking there must be something wrong with the washer and dryer downstairs from our apartment. One minute later another vibration occurred and I sat up. My wife came into the bedroom and asked me if I felt that. I replied yeah and she said she thought it was an earthquake. Less than two minutes later our power went out.

Jan said she saw lights in the other building so I continued with our plans to take the family to breakfast as Pagoda Restaurant near downtown Honolulu. Then I started seeing something very dangerous when one knows what idiots drivers can be. The traffic lights were out. I only saw one light out so I continued until getting stuck on several major intersections with no traffic lights. What a bunch of morons, and yes we can include me in that group for not turning around and going home at the first light, people were driving through the blacked out light as though they had a free pass instead of treating it like a stop sign.

Lesson: Stay home

Finally making it to Pagoda restaurant, wondering if they were even open by now, my family and I parked to assess the situation. It seemed a bus driver had dropped a bunch of tourists off at the restaurant which turned out to be closed. My compliments to the restaurant. The provided free coffee and danishes to everyone. Pagoda Restaurant really shined during such a dark time.

We worked our way back home. Other drivers had woken up to what they were supposed to do at a blacked out signal light and just a few of them were playing chicken with all the good drivers. My wife changed the batteries in our portable radio

Lesson: Have plenty of batteries on hand

KSSK radio did a great job keeping people informed so the city officials contacted KSSK along with using the Civil Defense announcements. All in all the information from KSSK radio was essential.

Lesson: Get a radio with batteries

According to our Governor, she was on the big island (Hawaii) when the 6.5 earthquake hit. She stood in her door frame and watched her TV set get tossed across the room. Upon the second quake the hotel she was staying at was evacuated.

Lesson: Get in the door frame which is well supported if you can't get out away from falling debris.

Although the phone lines were working via radio city officials suggested not using the phones except for emergencies. I was staying off my cell phone in case I need to keep it charged. Most people have cordless phones now. My wife's cell phone was almost dead.

Lesson: Get one of those cheap phones that plugs into the wall.

On Oahu we found out power had to be restored slowly over the entire island and most of the state. We were told the water ran to us via gravity and to refill they had to use electric pumps. Some pumps didn't have electric generators to pump the water. We were told via KSSK to use water sparingly and use bottled water if possible. Now, I had a problem with that. I told my family don't do dishes don't shower, but for cooking and drinking I wasn't going to use up all our bottled water and then run out of city water. So we used the city water for cooking and drinking and saved our bottled water in case we lost the city water.

Lesson: Keep a good supply of bottled water

Getting dark now. My wife decided to fix dinner. We have an electric stove, but she had a propane driven stove used for camping. So she fixed spam, pees and rice. Spam is s staple here. Being an old Illinois boy I was surprised to see it on menus at restaurants. Our neighbors were cooking out on their drill.

Lesson: Make sure you have an alternative means to cook meals for your family

We turned on the high powered flashlights we had so we could see. The radio advised against using candles and I agreed. My son seven year old son Hunter played with the flashlight in all kinds of ways I'd have never thought of before. From hand puppets, which he was quite good at to telling us to close our eyes then covering the flashlight with a towel so he “magically” disappeared.

Lesson: Keep high powered flashlights. Keep working batteries in them since it's hard to change batteries in the dark.

KKSK reported power coming on a little at a time. 20,000 homes out of over 800,000 had power in them. This was going to take all night. For some reason, though almost all businesses were closed, there were people lined up three blocks down to buy gas at the one station that was open. Whey they thought they needed to buy gas when their safest place to be was home I'll never figure out.

Lesson: It costs just as much to fill the top of the gas tank as it does the bottom.

Another huge line was for a place selling huli huli (flip flip) chicken. The traffic got so jammed up one motorcycle officer told the people to stop selling chicken or he'd arrest them. This according to KSSK caller at the place selling the chicken. That was straightened out and hungry people were still allowed to buy chicken.

Lesson: Keep a good supply of canned goods and other staples.

Our own power came back on about 11:00 PM. We were all actually asleep when the power came back on. The city officials had recommended turning off the water heater to help keep the circuits from overloading so we turned that back on in the morning.

Not everything, as of the next morning (this morning) was completed by the city. There were still some traffic lights flashing and a few were still out. Police were directing traffic on some places but the morons who didn't care for other people managed to find the other lights and risk everyone else's lives' by not being courteous drivers. Most people tried to be courteous towards other however and Hawaii drivers do seem to be more courteous than other states I've vistied. I recall my first day here being surprised when someone let on the highway and I got on it from the short on ramp.

This really could have gone a lot worse. Imagine the same morons with no signal lights during rush hour traffic on a Friday. Imagine people during rush hour traffic and no signal lights trying to get to the stores and gas stations and hospitals not thinking about the traffic but concerned for their families. One broken arm, according to reports I heard, was all that happened during this whole thing. We were lucky.

Now I have a question for you, since I know most of this is going in one ear and out the other. What is the difference between those unprepared people and you? They didn't think it would ever happen to them either. They kept meaning to prepare, but had more important things to do.

Lesson: Prepare for an emergency before the emergency

About The Author
J. Richard Kirkham is a dual certified teacher and martial arts instructor. He's a writer currently residing in Honolulu with his wife Jan and son Hunter. Please visit his website at