On evacuating for a tsunami

I have a friend who used to have disasters follow her or precede her when she travelled. Not your garden variety ones either. We’re talking a typhoon there, a bombing here, etc. Travelling the way we do, our idea of adventure may be a little skewed – all my friends admit that. So, when I heard there was a tsunami warning and then evacuation, fear wasn’t the paramount feeling. Let me start from the beginning.

We were out at a Hallowe’en pa’ina (party/gathering) put on by the local radio station when the concert was interrupted to announce that there had been an earthquake off the west coast of Canada and a tsunami could be headed to Hawaii, but so far, it was just a “watch”; the lowest of the warnings. No biggie…keep drinking my milkshake. Then after one song, they came back up to say it had been upgraded to a warning and they would close down the show so that everyone could go home. Allright. Interesting, but as we were staying across the road, this was also not a big deal. As well, the shopping mall where we were was the evacuation point, so we would have come there anyway.

Travel tip #44: even when travelling for a total escape from it all, it pays to be aware of the local disaster routines – even if all you do is check what the emergency number to call (it’s NOT 911 in all areas of the world)

Eventually, we decided we should go home to at least listen to the news….and pack a bag, just in case. After frantically (slightly) trying the TV, the radio (couldn’t get the shortwave channels) and the internet (wow, heavy traffic that night), we figured out that the Warning meant that certain coastal areas had to evacuate (no, not all of the island is considered coastal). The areas were marked in the phone book.  Wait. No phone book. Drat! Back to the internet…..we finally figured out that we were in an evacuation area…just. The intersection less than 20 feet away from the entrance to the resort was the edge of the evacuation area.

Travel tip #45: always know where your essentials are – passport, ID, medicines

My uncle and I wanted to go take pictures. My aunt wanted us out of there. My other uncle was already packed. We ended up back at the evacuation point, but this time with a car and food and drink and entertainment.

Evacuation tip #1: bring pillows if you have a chance

In the long hours ahead of us, we discovered that the supermarket was kept open, the movie theatres were open, the bathrooms were open and the pharmacy was closed. Also that some cars make really funny overheating noises when they are left running just to hear the radio and maybe for a bit of air conditioning and that some people play their radios much too loudly for a crowded parking lot.

Evacuation tip #6: don’t be a nuisance to those evacuating around you – you may be stuck with them for awhile

There were people trying to read by the flourescent light of the outdoor shopping mall and people trying to sleep laid out on the grassy bits between parking spaces. Others gathered around tailgates to exchange news and share a beer. And lots of people trying to find electrical outlets to charge their computers and ipads. But mostly, it was about waiting patiently as the reports came in from the tsunami warning centre in the Pacific and official government announcements. Thankfully, this tsunami was much lower than expected and there was very little damage. Everyone filed out of the parking lot and went home for a good night’s sleep.

Evacuation tip #10: don’t sweat it. Patience is essential when waiting together.


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