Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Flossie’s Aftermath

PHOTO: Keola Donaghy/Star-Advertiser
It’s hard to take seriously a tropical storm named Flossie but Hawaii state authorities made sure everyone paid attention before Flossie reached the Big Island on Monday.

In Honolulu, we were treated to high humidity, no breeze and torrential downpours beginning late Sunday night and throughout Monday as Flossie made landfall on the east shore of the Big Island, then passed over Maui and Molokai. Heavy rains, thunderstorms and some wind damage. Power outages and one person suffered a lightning strike on Maui but otherwise no one was hurt.

By the time Flossie reached Oahu, she’d been reduced to a tropical depression and rain. Late Tuesday, the trade winds had returned as had the blue skies.

Were all the warnings warranted and the storm preparations necessary? On Monday, the news stations devoted live coverage and repeated warnings. United and Alaska Airlines cancelled flights. There were lots of parking spaces at the beach at Waikiki; people were buying lots of toilet paper, bottled water and bags of rice at Longs Drugs and Foodland.

Of course the precautions and preparations were warranted. Most of the time we walk around enjoying the sun and surf, connecting up to the ‘net, shopping and eating like normal folk and don’t think about how fragile it is to live on islands in the middle of the Pacific. Many folks remember the big ones like Hurricane Iwa and Iniki when electricity wasn’t out for an hour or two but for days. Farther back, older folks remember long dockworker strikes which resulted in shortages of toilet paper and rice.

Storm tracking has come a long way and the state is much better prepared when it comes to informing folks about hurricanes and tsunamis. We’ve come a long way from the days when I was a youngster following my father down to the beach to see what we then called a ‘tidal wave’ arrive onto the south Oahu shore.

Being prepared for an emergency isn’t a bad thing, especially since an emergency is, well, an emergency and you really don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m sure the bottles of water will be drunk, the toilet paper used, and the rice and spam and Vienna sausages eaten.

It shouldn’t be any big deal, but every once in a while, it’s good to be reminded how tenuous the threads of civilization are.

--Mike Sato

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