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Damage Reported on Big Island from Tsunami – 3/13/2011

The following is an excerpt from a statement issued by Mayor Billy Kenoi of Hawaii County (the Big Island), regarding initial damage reports from the tsunami that hit Hawaii Friday morning following the massive 8.9 earthquake in Japan, last Thursday.

“County Police, Fire, Public Works and Environmental Management crews worked with State Highways, the American Red Cross and the county Office of Housing and Community Development to conduct preliminary damage assessments in the County of Hawai‘i today. Their findings include the following reports:

  • Seven homes suffered extensive damage on Manini Beach Road near Kealakekua Bay. Power lines also were downed in the area.
  • One two-story home at Kealakekua Bay was reported completely washed away, and a number of vehicles in the area were damaged.
  • King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel on Ali‘i Drive suffered extensive water damage to its ground floor, and observers reported possible damage to the Ahu‘ena Heiau on the hotel grounds. Shops across Ali‘i Drive from King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel also suffered extensive damage.
  • Large amounts of asphalt, concrete and other debris were thrown onto Ali‘i Drive near the hotel and near the breakwall at the edge of Ali‘i Drive. About a half-mile of Ali‘i Drive remains closed, from the King Kamehameha Hotel to Hualalai Road.Crews are at work cleaning up debris, and Alii Drive is expected to reopen later this afternoon.
  • Large amounts of debris were also deposited on Kailua Pier, and two vehicles left parked on the pier were damaged when the tsunami pushed them across the pier.
  • A hall at Pu‘uhonua Road suffered severe damage, while the Puu O Honaunau National Historic Park (City of Refuge) also reported flooding.
  • There were no sewer spills reported, but the county Department of Environmental Management reported water damage to a sewer pump station near King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel.
  • Extensive damage was reported to businesses on both sides of Ali‘i Drive, including the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, the ground floor of the Kona Reef Hotel, and the Kona Inn Restaurant.
  • The last open county shelter was closed at about noon today after guests who had been evacuated from the King Kamehameha were relocated to a new hotel.
  • In Kailua-Kona, crews reported one single-family home was destroyed, and one suffered major damage. Six Kailua apartments or condominiums suffered major damage, and 19 had minor damage.
  • The Kona Village Resort had 20 guest units damaged when they were lifted off their foundations. Two restaurants at the resort were flooded.
  • The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai reported water damage to utility buildings, pools and damage to a restaurant at the resort.”

From some of the video that I have found, it appears that two areas in particular were hit pretty bad.  Kailua Bay where water washed over the  wall that separates the Bay and Ali’i Drive and where Bubba Gump, mentioned above is located, as well as the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel where it was reported that there was a foot of water in the lobby area of the hotel.

The second area is Kealakekua Bay, where a house was completely washed away, as well as destroying several cars.  For those who may be familiar, Kealakekua Bay is where the Captain Cook Memorial is located, as well as Pu’uhonua o’Honaunau (Place of Refuge) National Historical Park.

While I have not seen any reports from the Park Service, the fact that wave action was strong enough to wash a house out into the Bay tells me that the park had to have sustained damage as well.

Trying to get information on the damage throughout the state has been very difficult.  The initial report filed by the Associated Press said that Hawaii was being “slammed” by a tsunami and grossly over-stated the situation at the time the report was posted.

Later Friday morning, the word was that there was minimal damage except for possibly the Kahului, Maui area and Hilo Bay on the Big Island.  No mention was made of Kailua-Kona, although it appears they caught the worst of it.  No significant damage has been reported out of Hilo.

The good news is that it could have been much worse.

Significant damage to harbor facilities were also reported at Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu.  Several smaller harbors also suffered considerable damage along the southern coast of Oahu and many small boats that moved out to sea to ride out the tsunami are still out there as they try to figure out where and how to get safely back to shore.

All attention has been focused on the on-going tragedy in Japan and little is being said, even by local news, about the damage in Hawaii.  If you would like to help those in need in Japan, the Red Cross is appealing for you donations at:

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