Officials urge preparedness for Tsunami Awareness Month - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Officials urge preparedness for Tsunami Awareness Month

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By Ben Gutierrez - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With the March 11 tsunami from Japan still fresh for many people, emergency management officials are urging the public to learn from the event for Tsunami Awareness Month.

Tsunami Awareness Month is held each April in Hawaii to commemorate the 159 lives lost in the April 1, 1946 tsunami that struck the islands. Most of those who died were on the Big Island of Hawaii, but there were also six fatalities on Oahu, 12 killed on Maui, and 18 who lost their lives on Kauai.

The city's Emergency Management Department said this month's tsunami wasn't large enough to cause extremely serious damage. However, if the waves had just been two or three feet higher, they would have increased damage around the state.

"You add another meter or a couple of feet to this event, and there would be many places on Kam Highway and the North Shore that would've been flooded," said Dr. Daniel Walker, the city's tsunami advisor. "And many businesses on Maui would've been flooded."

According to Walker, the highest wave was in a remote area west of Camp Erdman, near Kaena Point, with an estimated height of 17 and a half feet.

The city also said that it is increasing the use of text messages and e-mail, via www.nixle.com, to get emergency messages to residents and others. According to emergency management spokesman John Cummings III, there are 3,600 people signed up for the free service, up 400 from the night of the tsunami warning.

Emergency managers are urging everyone to use the awareness month to know what to do the next time a tsunami warning is issued, including knowing whether or not they live or work in a tsunami evacuation zone.

"It's preparation versus desperation," Cummings said.

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