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Tsunami 2011: Business as usual for some in Kona

Guests were checking in Saturday at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, as clean up crews worked in the lobby. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

A quick tour Saturday afternoon along Alii Drive was a study in contrasts. Some shops and restaurants open as usual. Others boarded up or shuttered with handwritten signs taped to the door.

Still others looking like construction sites: sounds of power saws, generators and hammers. And the loud rock music that seems to accompany every job site.

Across from Kailua Pier, several shops got slammed and will need more than just cleaning. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Hyper shuttered on Saturday. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Directly across from Kailua Pier, several ground-level businesses lost inventory, floors and even interior walls.

The shop front shared by Da Kona Coffee store and Cindy Coats Gallery was completely smashed and boarded up.

Coats said she came back to ‘utter devastation’ as water washed over the seawall and crashed into the building. It knocked down the interior wall between the coffee store and gallery and destroyed all Coats’ art prints.

“I managed to save some originals, a few of my dad’s sculptures and with some time the gallery will reopen,” she said. “All I have to do is watch the video from Japan and it puts everything in perspective.”

She also managed to save a favorite souvenir from a visit to England. A sign that says “Keep calm and carry on.”

A huge tire, which may have been one of the bumpers along Kailua Pier, sits on Kaiakeokua Beach. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

A couple doors along, the Maui Divers Jewelry store is open for business. The store had a little water pooled on the floor, but had no damage and lost no inventory.

The rolling metal security gate was bent and stuck in a closed position, but the manager called her husband who managed to whack it back in place without too much difficulty.

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

The seawall is fundamentally intact. The thick concrete core was not damaged, but a 1-foot thick lava rock facade was peeled away in huge sections.

Beneath the seawall the entire sidewalk is gone, along with the iconic Ironman finish line sign. All that’s left is the curb and a gaping hole.

Much of the lava rock facade has been stripped from the seawall and huge sections of the pavement peeled away. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Further along Alii Drive, one ABC store has newspaper covering all the windows and is locked up tight. Almost directly across the street, another ABC store is serving a steady stream of customers.

That store saw only a minimal amount of water on the floor.

There's not usually sand on side of Kona Inn Shopping Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Kona Inn Shopping Center is without power and closed off. Several shops were only open so staff could salvage merchandise and clean up.

As an employee of one boutique said, “It’s a big mess and it smells like fish. A lot. But we didn’t lose much, mostly floor boards and stuff.”

Staff from one restaurant was loading up a truck with perishable foods.

And a crew was replacing the wooden boardwalk inside the center.

Replacing the boards in Kona Inn Shopping Center. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

At Hale Halawai, a family was preparing the hall for a party. Pink and white balloons, pristine white table clothes and party favors are quite a contrast to the muddy mess that used to be Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant.

There's not usually sand in Queen Emma Square, either. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Some public areas at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel are cordoned off. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel

The hotel remains open to guests. Damage was limited to the lobby and grounds.

Some public areas are closed while the clean up continues and one restaurant needs major repairs, but guest services and rooms are not affected.

On Saturday, parts of the lobby were cordoned off, but cleaning work was underway everywhere.

Sea water spared the new Herb Kane's display. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

An entire crew was working at the restaurant – complete with loud rock music, extension cords winding into the ladies restroom, band saws whining and guys in dirty T-shirts whistling along with the loud rock music.

Another worker was sucking gunk out of the swimming pool.

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

The gym, adjacent to the pool, was still strewn with wrecked equipment and one entry way was still barricaded with a 2 foot high pile of palm fronds and debris.

(Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Inside, the tiles were already clean and safe, although the carpets were sodden and covered in a layer of smelly mud. Crews were working to pull up the carpet and haul it out to the parking lot.

Brown streaks stained the white walls at about 18 inches to 2 feet, marking the sea water’s passage as it rushed straight through the hotel and flooded the back parking lot.

One construction worker said, “We’ll be here for awhile. There’s a lot to do. Mostly it’s the carpet right now. It’s totally soaked, very heavy and smelly. The most amazing thing was coming in here and seeing all the dead fish, big ones. I never thought I’d see fish like that inside the hotel.”

Working on the restaurant and whistling. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

According to a statement from the hotel’s management:

“Life has returned to King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel, but we are still a little sandy and wet. Our award-winning luau will take a hiatus until the end of the month as we have some clean-up to do in that area. There is sand in the lobby and water damage on the first floor which affected the restaurant, retail areas, lobby and meeting space. The rooms were untouched by the water. Some of our guests are choosing to stay at the hotel, since only the public areas have been affected, however, we are happy to work with our guests to relocate elsewhere, if desired.”

General Manager Jak Hu said most guests are opting to stay put, and Billfish Bar will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner starting Sunday.

Visible water mark on the wall in King Kamehemaha's Kona Beach Hotel lobby. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Hulihee Palace

Across Kailua Bay, a group was cleaning wrecked stuff out of the Hulihee Palace basement. (Never even knew they had a basement!)

Hulihee Palace basement. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Palace administrator Fanny Au Hoy, her husband Sam, a few palace staff and volunteers from University of the Nations made trip after trip into the dank deeps and returned with armfuls of wet cardboard.

The lawn was piled with furniture, boxes of muddy yet intact china, soggy books and seasonal decorations.

Drying out flags at Hulihee Palace. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Au Hoy said about 5 feet of water flooded the basement and most of the contents are not salvageable. However, the ancient artifacts and museum pieces are fine.

“It’s a lot of work, but we have so many friends,” she said. “Those two guys over there are here on spring break or whatever. One is from Oregon and the other one is from Pennsylvania. They were just walking by and saw the activity, so they said ‘Can you use four extra hands?’ They’ve been here for hours.”

While the palace itself escaped the tsunami, the gift shop, caretaker cottage and part of the fish pond wall are all pretty much losses. But, Au Hoy said, they can all be rebuilt.

Hulihee Palace caretaker's cottage. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Kailua Pier

Ah, the pier. The center of Kona’s universe. Start and finish for the Ironman triathlon world champion. Headquarters for more than 50 years for the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament.

At the gates of Kailua Pier. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Home of paddling regattas, the occasional concert and a favorite fishing and swimming spot for many locals. It also serves as check-in for a handful of snorkeling tours, boating adventures and Atlantis Submarine.

About 100 years old and built as a cattle-loading ramp, Kailua Pier has weathered many storms and surges and now is the only West Hawaii facility that can ferry passengers to and from visiting cruise ships.

As of Saturday, it has NOT been condemned. (Well, the end bit was. But that was back in 1999 and repairs were made in 2003-04.)

The U.S. Coast Guard does not have the authority to condemn the pier, as it falls under the jurisdiction of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. State assessment teams are not due on the Big Island until Sunday.

However, the regular Wednesday cruise ship call has been cancelled for March 16. State officials, and everyone else, are hopeful the pier will be able to accommodate the following week’s visit.

Councilman Angel Pilago said he has a report that the pier has bisected by a 6-inch crack. So it might still be condemned once engineers have a chance to inspect the damage.

As of Saturday, at least two boats – Kona Aggressor and BodyGlove – still were picking up and dropping off passengers.

It is covered with a layer of sand and mostly closed to the public, but that did not stop the occasional visitor from ducking under the caution tape and venturing across the asphalt.

And the usual gaggle of keiki and teens were enjoying Kaiakeokua Beach, also known to triathletes as Dig Me Beach.

Ahuena Heiau. Still have not confirmed whether it was the tiki or the fence that was found up at Quinn's Restaurant. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Other stuff

* The Kokua Kailua stroll is still on for Sunday, March 20.

KVBID executive director Debbie Baker said if the road is open, the stroll is a go.

* Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park is closed indefinitely as park officials assess damage.

* Kaloko-Honokohau National Park is open, but the unimproved road that leads to Kaloko Fishpond is closed.

* Of the county’s 76 sirens, two reportedly malfunctioned —Pahala and Milolii.

* Shelters across the island hosted almost 1,000 tsunami refugees.

Ouch. A fiberglass paddling canoe sits in pieces at King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Reports from hotels and resorts

* Sheraton Keauhou Bay was well protected by the lava cliffs and sustained no damage at all from the tsunami. Guests temporarily evacuated but all have been safely returned. Thoughts and prayers to our friends in Japan.

* Keauhou Beach Resort: General Manager, Paul Horner, would like to let you all know that our hotel has survived and every single guest and employee are safe. We are especially grateful for all the hard work and superb efforts put out by our entire staff and guests during this time.

* The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai: As a result of high storm surge from the earthquake-generated tsunami, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai sustained some debris-related damage in certain areas. We have temporarily closed the Resort and relocated in-house guests while we begin clean-up efforts to restore the Resort to its pristine condition. Ensuring the safety and comfort of our guests is our foremost concern, and in order to do so at our expected level, we determined it best to close while these efforts take place. We plan to reopen the Resort on March 21, 2011. Overall, the Resort sustained minimal damage caused by water and sand from the storm surge, primarily to landscaped areas and the beach. All guests with reservations prior to this date are being contacted by our reservations team in making alternate arrangements.

* Kona Village Resort safely evacuated all guests and employees. The guests and employees were taken to a designated evacuation site where they were looked after as well as having food and beverage. All guests and staff have been safely accounted for. Due to the storm surge and some damage that we are currently assessing, we are relocating guests to other rooming options in Kona as well as on to other Hawaii Island hotels. While we ensure the grounds are safe for occupancy and future enjoyment, we will close Kona Village for a number of days to fully evaluate any safety and damage concerns. Thank you for your thoughts and concerns.

* Marriott Resorts Hawaii: Our Hawaii resorts are doing fine.

* Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows: Hotel was evacuated. Reported minimal damage.

* The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii: Guests evacuated. Minor damage to oceanfront and some guest amenities.

Editor’s Note: If any of our readers have favorite restaurants, shops or just a special spot you’d like us to check on, let us know. We’ll do our best to take a look and post an update.

Like the sign says, Kona is open for business. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

16 Responses to “Tsunami 2011: Business as usual for some in Kona”

  1. Leslie Krinsk says:

    I appreciate your reporting and would like to know how the little town of Puako, north of the airport, fared. ANd the reefs–the wonderful reefs and fish and turtles! Thanks, Leslie

  2. Your was the most comprehensive report I’ve come across. Finally, actual (and correct) news from the West side for those of us who aren’t there to see it. Karin, mahalo nui loa for including the pic of Herb’s exhibit in the King Kamehameha Kona Beach Hotel.

  3. Elizabeth H says:

    Great coverage. How did the Kahaluu park, the bay and the church adjacent fare?

  4. Fern Gavelek says:

    Great coverage Karen-mahalo!

  5. Sean Cowin says:

    Thank you! Being so far away from Kona has left me desperate for real news and information. This has helped me a great deal. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  6. Matt Lovein says:

    Great reporting work, liked the pictures and got an overall feel and visual of what happened. Thank you.

  7. NK says:

    Thansk for the accurate reportage.
    Any word on Puako?
    Any word on Kiholo–the lagoon and those turtles? The Bakken/Bali/Loretta Lynn houses?
    Are the Mauna Lani and Orchid pools open?

  8. Priscilla Kostiner says:

    Thanks for this comprehensive report. You seemed to have covered all bases, although I am really curious about the Kahaluu snorkel area.

  9. Victoria says:

    @Leslie and NK – I ran into an old neighbor from Puako on Sat. who told me that they did not suffer much at all out there – some ponding as in after a rare heavy rain.. but nothing major! I also was at Kiholo yesterday for a beach day – you cannot even tell there was a tsunami there.. looked like the usual High tide marks and nothing more….no debris – nothing out of the ordinary. FYI

  10. john gill says:

    Great reporting this is the only place where we can find out what has happened on the islands. We were in kona in September 2010 on a cruise and we live in england we became friendly with the lady who runs the pet shop opposite the pier and wondered if you have any news of how her business withstood the tsunami.

  11. NK says:

    Thanks for the news! Good to hear Puako and Kiholo did not seem too badly hit. Hugs and aloha to everyone there.

  12. Emily says:

    Any information on Hapuna beach? Or Kealakekua bay? Also the Royal Kona Resort hotel?
    This is the best info I’ve seen, thanks so much.

  13. Nicole Burns says:

    Aloha Karen,

    I had been back to visit Kona in February while my family just returned a week before this tsunami. They were in Kona last year when they had to evacuate for the tsunami warning. Fortunately the Kona Nalu condo we stayed in on the ground level went undamaged but I want to know if St. Peters Church sustained any damage. I haven’t been able to find any pictures or reports. Can you please let me know? Thank you for the detailed update, you have been the only one to report with such detail, it’s nice to know what is going on!

  14. Martha says:

    Mahalo for the report.

    I am wondering about Quinn’s and their Lanai. How did they fair? My favorite place was just sitting on the seawall and having a shaved ice. Glad to see the wall still standing.


  15. Lisa Garcia says:

    We are going to Mauna Lani Bay Hotel at the end of April we are snorkel enthusiats. Spending hours daily in the water. Has the Tsunami destroyed the reefs, and are the waters churned up for poor snorkeling?

    Also, what is the best area on the Island for snorkeling? I hope that life is getting back to normal for those hit hardest.

    Thank you,

  16. Donald A. Clark says:

    We were at the Sheraton in mid Feb, loved Kona, the people, turtles, snorkeling and food. When we heard of the Japan earthquake we knew it could damage Kona. although no one was hurt, our hearts go out to those who lost property and work time. Carry on Kona and west Hawaii, we’ll be back. Don


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