photo by EfrankE

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

50 Years After the Hilo Tsunami

I’m a little behind here, fighting off a cold and lacking energy. but...

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the 1960 tsunami, which devastated Waiakea town (a town section of Hilo) along Kamehameha Avenue and the Hilo bay front. Where once stood houses and businesses there is now a wide, open-space buffer, including park areas and the soccer fields all of my children played on in inter-island competitions while growing up.

The tsunami collapsed house against house as it rushed up the slope of the town. Sixty one people perished. Waiakea Town was condemmed and deeded over to the state.

Hilo, the County of Hawaii government headquarters, is on the windward coast (opposite side from Kona) of the Big Island, the Island of Hawai’i.

On February 27 of this year, our family woke up to tsunami warning sirens, due to earthquake-generated concerns) here in Kona. Condominiums along the shore were evacuated, businesses were closed and nearly everyone moved up the slopes of Hualalai as a precaution

Down the road from where we live, a group set up a few shade tents right off the highway on the edge of a precipice, along with tables, chairs, coolers and barbecue grills to watch the big one hit about a thousand feet lower and a mile away. We watched for it while attending a house blessing event at 600 feet elevation and a clear view of the coastline about ½ mile down slope.

The anticipated tsunami never arrived, thankfully. The drama far exceeded the event. This was a good thing, in spite of the potential for producing cynicism in some people from, yet another, “false” alarm. As the Hilo tsunami demonstrated, it’s important to be vigilant and responsive to warnings. Complacency can become fatal along the island coastline.

Click here to read one survivor's recent recollection of the 1960 Waiakea-Hilo Tsunami.


  1. wow......that is awful. What a mess! and pretty far ranging .....

    Absolutely don't want to get complacent.... the next warning could be another of the same.... definitely keep getting to high ground Mike!

  2. Wow! I remember the most recent one. They covered it even on the news up here as it was unfolding. I remember thinking how horrible just waiting to see whether or not the devestation would occur.