By Beth Hillyer
Honolulu (KHNL) - For a state located thousands of miles away from the mainland, it was a travelers nightmare. Hundreds of flights cancelled, thousands stuck when a strong earthquake struck the islands last October.
That earthquake did more than just damage Big Island buildings, it also damaged the state's top industry, tourism. leaving passengers packed at the Honolulu International Airport with no lights or air conditioning.
As we approach the one year anniversary of that powerful quake, government officials highlight some lessons learned and recommendations for the future, including what can be done at our airports.
That morning the clock at the Honolulu International Airport was frozen in time moments after the first earthquake.
Almost immediately the airport lost power. Empty planes sat at the gates
There was no air conditioning so people made fans one passenger said, "Looks like we are at a standstill here no air conditioning. Can't fight it."
All computers were down, no way to examine luggage or check in passengers. Another passenger added, "We were in our hotel room and it was shaking and we thought we better get out of here luckily we were packed up."
Most plopped down and waited while. Others sought out information using their cell phones and radios. Passengers muddled in confusion and misinformation.
"I'm broadcasting the report about the earthquake to everybody here at the airport. Listening to the radio seems like only one station on the air right now, says one helpful traveller."
Some tried to make the best of it by entertaining themselves but others grew increasingly agitated and impatient.
"We have no idea where we are going or when. I'm ready to go, just hopeful we will be able to get on to a flight and get back to our families."
This time last year the airport only had 15 percent backup power. Just enough for runway lights and the fire station
Airport Deputy Director Brian Sekiguchi says, "In our minds you couldn't put a price tag on leaving the travelling public in the situation they experienced October 15th."
Today the airport would be up and running much faster. "We put in backup power system that basically fires up the airport up to 65 to 70 percent, facilities, gates," concludes Sekiguchi.