Skip to content

Reflecting on the Big Island Tsunami

March 11, 2011

Updated March 12, 10:30am – photo and links added.

Read more about the aftermath of the Kona tsunami in this Honolulu Star-Advertiser article: Homes, emotions devastated: Small Kealakekua Bay community is the worst hit of all the Big Isle’s damaged areas

Manini Beach home

House floating in Kealakekua Bay earlier today

Like many Hawaii residents, I didn’t get much sleep last night.

Even though I couldn’t hear the Civil Defense sirens that sounded hourly beginning at 10 pm, I was awake most of the night keeping a close watch on updates about the tsunami waves that were generated as a result of the devastating earthquake in Japan.

Countless news articles, videos and blog posts about the earthquake and the tsunami have been shared today. I’ve read many of them and I wrote one for the Clark Realty blog. I also watched a lot of video last night via Hawaii News Now, CNN, Al Jazeera English and (don’t laugh) the Waikiki Beach Surf ustream channel.

Even after sorting through all that information and all the visuals (I especially like the NOAA wave model we used in the Clark post), when I came to the end of my day today and saw the BBC video that Gary Davis of our Waimea office posted, I knew I had to slow down and take time to feel this event in a way that I hadn’t been able to when we were all still anticipating “what might be” for Hawaii.

Gary posted the link to the BBC video right at about the time Dorlene Kolina Chao, an agent in our Kona office, posted this photo what was the Kealakekua Hale sinking in Kealakekua Bay (pictured above earlier in the day):

Manini Beach house in Kealakekua Bay

The Manini Beach house sinks in Kealakekua Bay - Photo courtesy Dorlene Kolina Chao

Something about Dorlene’s post made me pause. It somehow signaled an end to the immediacy of the events of the day. And it prompted the realization that, through posts from various onlookers who shared photos over the course of the day, we were able to collectively watch from afar as someone’s house sank into the bay. Let me repeat… we watched as someone’s house sank into the bay… I still find that kind of connectedness rather amazing in times like these.

After Dorlene’s post, I unplugged from Twitter and Facebook for a while and talked for a few minutes with Karen Clarkson and Juanita Montgomery at Clark Realty’s Waimea office to hear how they had dealt with an unusually difficult day. Back online later, I discovered that Big Island Video News is calling photos of the house floating in Kealakekua Bay the “iconic” image of the 2011 Kona tsunami. I totally agree. Of all the Hawaii photos I’ve seen so far, none captures the “Big Island-ness” of what this day was quite like these Kealakekua Bay photos.

I’m wrapping up the day looking back over the last 24 hours and the events that have been so devastating for those in Japan. I’m feeling very relieved that Hawaii was spared any more significant damage than we have experienced. And I’m feeling grateful for the community of which I am a part here on the Big Island.

It has been a sobering day. But we are ending it with an a hui hou” instead of with good-byes as some are. We have much for which to be thankful tonight.

Sleep safe and sleep well, Big Islanders.

*First photo above courtesy CC Greenwell of Clark Realty’s Kailua-Kona office – This is the first image of the house most of us saw this morning.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Randy Twombly permalink
    March 12, 2011 6:02 am

    Just checking the net for Kealakekua Bay news. I stayed at that house 3 years ago. It was a very special place and I had the honor to meet and spend time with Gordon Leslie who lived across the street and also lost his house. I learned more of Hawaii from Gordon than in all my previous trips to Hawaii. The big blue house which is owned by a close friend of Gordon’s, was filled with Gordon’s historic Hawaiian artwork and artifacs. You can see what the house once was at

    • March 12, 2011 7:20 am

      Aloha Randy,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s a bit surreal, looking at the photos and knowing that the house has been completely swept away. Mahalo for sharing the link.

  2. Melissa permalink
    March 12, 2011 6:54 pm

    Hi, Cynthia,

    We have stayed in Napoopoo many times over the past ten years, the last two years at the Hale O Lei and other times in other residences although never the big blue house. We would walk daily to Manini Beach and swim and snorkel. I am thinking today of Sandy who lives down the road from Manini whom we have talked to for many hours at the park. I am hoping she, her husband, and her home are safe and sound although after seeing some pictures I fear for the house. If you live in Napoopoo, do you know if she is okay? It would be a relief to know.


    Melissa Czarnecki

    • March 12, 2011 6:59 pm

      Hi Melissa,

      I don’t live in the area, but I will check with CC who passed along the first photo. If she has any news, I will pass that along as soon as I hear from her.

      With aloha,



  1. Liza from 'A Maui Blog'

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: