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Tsunami: Getting ready on the Big Island

The county’s 72 sirens began sounding the alert at 6 a.m., some five and one-half hours after Mayor Billy Kenoi signed an emergency declaration for the Big Island.

Tsunami were expected at 11:04 a.m. The mood remains calm in the county’s Civil Defense Agency headquarters in Hilo, as county officials watch six giant screens.

Hilo International Airport was closed to facilitate evacuation of an adjacent neighborhood, said mayor’s executive assistant Kevin Dayton.

Resorts, hotels, businesses and homes in the inundation zones were locked up tight several hours before the tsunami was expected.

About 30 minutes before the tsunami was expected, police and first responders moved away from shoreline areas, Dayton said.

All beaches were closed and all community events were cancelled, Dayton said.

Boats and ships moved out of the island’s three harbors and into open water. Owners of two boats in Hilo Harbor were not found, and those boats remain in the harbor.

County police, public works and parks crews have conducted several tsunami drills within the last year and reacted quickly and efficiently, Mayor Billy Kenoi said.

“We feel very good about our preparedness,” Kenoi said. “We feel fortunate our residents know what to do and stay calm. It’s important they follow instructions.”

Across the county, 17 evacuation centers were opened. In the event residents can not return to their homes, the Red Cross will be called in and the centers will be converted into shelters, Dayton said.

The Hawaii National Guard has generators and emergency equipment ready in case they are needed.

Kenoi went up on a National Guard helicopter just before the tsunami was expected, to survey any damage.

The Department of Water Supply cut water to roughly 5,000 customers within the tsunami zone as a preventative measure.

GOVERNOR LINGLE SIGNS

TSUNAMI EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION

HONOLULU – Governor Linda Lingle has signed an emergency disaster proclamation two hours before a tsunami generated by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile is expected to affect the State of Hawaii.
The proclamation, which includes the entire State, provides for the “expenditure of State monies as appropriated for the speedy and efficient protection and relief of the damages, loses and suffering resulting from the threatened disaster.”
Governor Lingle said signing the emergency disaster proclamation now will improve the State’s ability to respond quickly to any potential damage caused by the tsunami. Estimated first wave arrival time is 11:05 a.m. in Hilo. The tsunami is expected to affect all shores of all Hawaiian Islands and may last for several hours.
The disaster emergency relief period for the proclamation begins today, February 27, 2010, and continues until the Governor determines an appropriate time for termination.

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