SPECIAL REPORT: Tsunami Aftermath, Kealakekua Cleanup

KEALAKEKUA, Big Island (HawaiiNewsNow) - The tsunami that hit Hawaii back in March demolished homes at Kealakekua Bay but not lives.

Kealakekua Bay acted like a giant funnel.  See the cliffs on the far side of the bay.  All that energy bounced off the cliffs and needed somewhere to go.

So the energy and the waves just kept moving around Kealakekua Bay until they found the low lying land, which of course is also where the homes are. Five of those homes were so battered by the tsunami they're a total loss. Dozens more were damaged.

Many remember the image of a two story home washed into the bay. It is perhaps the image most associated with the Tsunami in Hawaii.

The home, a vacation rental, was owned by a woman in California.

"The divers went down, pulled out the pieces of the house and put it on boats.  People brought their own kayaks and their own boats.  Put it on boats and took it over to the warf," said Pam Sokach of Kealakekua.

Captain Cook Resident, Andy Norlander said, "It took weeks and weeks to take care of that.  But the volunteer turnout down here was phenomenal, just phenomenal.  For those who didn't want to work, baskets and baskets of sandwiches.  Coolers full of drinks just donated."

There is no doubt the last seven months have been difficult for people here. They've suffered financially and emotionally. But they're bouncing back.

Gordon Leslie showed us blue prints for a home to replace the one he lost. The tsunami blew through his rock wall like it was made of pebbles. Then wrecked the five cottage-like structures that made up home.

This is his property today. He's living in a tent. Three of his cottages have been removed. He hopes to salvage the other two. They've been incorporated into those blue prints - - which by the way were drawn up free of charge by an architect.

"So far we have been blessed by companies and people pledging their support to help build.  You know plumbers.  Electricians," said Leslie.

It's not just homes and other personal property that took a hit. So did the environment. Debris was everywhere.

"I have pulled large pieces of carpet out from different places, and it's funny because after a week or two an area that you've worked all of a sudden it seems like the earth is regurgitating more stuff," said Captain Cook Resident, Mary Lou White.

White was one of the volunteers who cleaned up. "It was very therapeutic in that respect where you are meeting people that had that same, let's try to fix this."  "There's dolphins over there all the time, so I think the urgency to get the life back, you know, to stop killing what's in there is what the people felt here," said White.

Take a look at what the tsunami did at Manini beach. It always had the name, but not the beach.

You see before the tsunami there wasn't any sand here. Just stones and pieces of dead coral.

But when the tsunami washed ashore it brought sand with it.

Honaunau Resident Ali Rabin, "Something good came out of it.  I mean it was kind of crazy disaster for the house that used to be here which got completely swept away into the bay, but now we have this amazing beach park and sandy beach where all of our kids and friends can enjoy, so something good did come out of it." The people of Kealakekua suffered a setback on March 11th.

But together they're bouncing back and not a single person tells us they plan to leave.

I'm so fortunate and so blessed that our father had allowed me, our father in heaven - both of them are in heaven - had allowed me the opportunity to be here.  I don't know why I am so blessed.  I really don't," said Gordon Leslie.

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