Albert Lean grandson reports from HawaiiPublished 11:25am Friday, March 11, 2011
Just two days ago, Tyler Thomsen was watching a show about tsunamis on the History Channel.
He never imagined he’d be living through one by the end of the week.
“Maybe it’s kind of like a warning sign,” he said Friday morning. “It’s just unbelievable it happened the very next day. I guess everything happens for a reason.”
Thomsen moved to Maui, Hawaii, in December. He’s a former Albert Lean who’s grandparents, Jim and Lois Verdoorn, live in Albert Lea.
Tsunami waves swamped Hawaii beaches and brushed the U.S. western coast early Friday but didn’t immediately cause major damage after devastating Japan and sparking evacuations throughout the Pacific Rim.
As of 6:30 a.m. Hawaii-Aleutian Time, (10:30 a.m. Central Standard Time) on Friday, Thomsen was fine, still in “shut-down,” meaning he was unable to leave his house. He said that would continue until 7 a.m., and so hadn’t yet been able to get out and survey the damages. He did know that all of the schools were closed down and his employer, Bank of Hawaii, was on a 90-minute delay.
While waves 7 feet high were recorded on Maui, Thomsen didn’t have to evacuate his house because he’s exactly half a mile from the oceanfront, in an elevated area.
“We’re pretty safe for now,” he said, adding that the aftershocks were creating a lot of waves.
Kauai was the first of the Hawaiian islands hit by the tsunami, which was caused by an earthquake in Japan, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said. Water rushed ashore in Honolulu, covering Waikiki Beach and surging over a break wall in the world-famous resort area but stopping short of the high-rise hotels.
Waves about 3 feet high were recorded in Oahu and Kauai. Officials warned that the waves would continue and could become larger, and a scientist at the tsunami warning center said there was likely some damage to mooring facilities and piers.
Thomsen said before the “shut down” went into effect last night, everybody was packing gas stations and grocery stores to make sure their cars were filled with gas and water jugs full. He said the cars had to be filled with gas in case they were instructed to evacuate their homes, which would mean going to the mountains in Maui or the Haleakala volcano. Water was important because living on an island, if the main source of water is damaged or destroyed, there’s not much officials can do, so it was best to be prepared for the worst.
“It was very, very, very intense,” he said. “Being from Minnesota, I’ve never seen anything like it, so I was pretty nervous.”
Thomsen said it’s not uncommon to get tsunami warnings, but in the four years his roommates have lived there, they’ve never seen a warning of this magnitude come through.
The tsunami, spawned by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan, slammed the eastern coast of Japan, sweeping away boats, cars, homes and people as widespread fires burned out of control. Hundreds of people in Japan were killed. The tsunami raced across the Pacific at 500 mph — as fast as a jetliner — though tsunami waves roll into shore at normal speeds.