Monday, October 16, 2006

Rockin' and Rollin' in Hawaii on October 15, 2006

Honolulu, Hawaii Oct 16, 2006

We were rockin' and rollin' yesterday morning while visiting our children and grandgirls at their new home in Ewa Beach. A 6.7-magnitude earthquake* off the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai'i at 7:07 a.m. Oct. 15, 2006, was the most powerful seismic event in the United States last year, and one of largest in the world, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

This earthquake was noisy – a noise that sounded like a huge dog scratching vigorously on our door. We were awakened by that noise, and by our bed jumping and shaking – a more hearty version of those "magic fingers" massages found in motels in the 50's and 60's. Seven minutes later another jolt, of 6.0 magnitude, shook me out of bed. Hubby, who was already outside, said he knew I had a hard time waking up, but this took the cake. I replied that I was awake, but figured if we had a tsunami, I’d rather be on the 2nd floor.

Only one radio station was working, and the DJ was just as confused as we were. I called my son in Austin, TX, and asked him to turn on the news and tell us what the heck was going on. Lots of other folks were making similar calls, then calling the DJ who put out the callers’ messages over the airwaves.

We knew our electricity (in an all-electric house) was off. Son in Austin said CNN said electricity was off on the entire island of Oahu.

All six of us decided we were hungry, so we piled into a car and found a KOA Pancake House with a gas grill. No coffee or soft drinks (needed electricity) but we enjoyed great pancakes and eggs in the darkened dining room. We beat the crowd. When we left, the line of customers was winding down the street.

As we drove home, stopping to try to buy ice at every convenience store or market that was open (99% of businesses were closed), we decided those late eaters must have been out buying all the ice on our side of the island – ‘cause we didn’t find any.

Later we learned that Oahu’s electric grid, having no other grid, or contiguous state grid to draw electricity from in an emergency, had been programmed to shut down all stations whenever one station shut down in an emergency. Because an emergency had never shut down a station before, they weren’t quite sure of the sequence needed to bring them back on line without blowing a transformer or something. It took all day, until 8 pm to bring the stations back on line.

About 8:30, after a lazy day of non-electricity-using swimming and reading and playing with the dog, we ventured out to an Aiea area restaurant, The Dixie Grill, to wait in a long line of other hungry earthquake experiencers, who were all pretty much in a party-mood, which the Dixie Grill promoted by bringing us complimentary drinks.

Thinking back, all during the past week, we have had "vog," (volcanic smog) blanketing the islands. The trade winds have not been blowing as they usually do. Also, we have had an extraordinary amount of rain falling on this, the leeward, side of the island, which is normally arid. The weather people say there is no connection, but, who knows???

This was my second earthquake. The first was in an office building in downtown
San Francisco in the late 1970s, sitting in a meeting. Suddenly I felt really dizzy. I looked up. The chandeliers were swaying. It was over in a second.

Even though the October 15th earthquake was pretty strong, causing major structural damage on the Big Island, including the historic Kalahikiola Congregational Church,

I haven’t learned of any deaths directly related to the earthquake. Having the “earth move under your feet” may be fine when you are in love, but I would rather not have this type of movement again.

*There were only four other earthquakes in the United States that measured between 6.0 and 6.9 magnitude in 2006, all of them in Alaska's Aleutian Islands.