Categorized | Featured, News, Tsunami

Tsunami 2011: From the ocean to the air

Anaehoomalu Bay four days after the tsunami. (Hawaii 24/7 special by Brian Powers | Hawaiian Images)

(Editor’s Note: Brian Powers is a Kona-based aerial photographer and occasional contributor to Hawaii 24/7. He shares his tsunami day story and some of his latest photos.)

Special to Hawaii 24/7 by Brian Powers

I got the call from my sister in California, you know nothing good is going to follow when the conversation starts with: “You know what’s happening, don’t you?”

That kind of question is never followed by: “They just found a steamer trunk with your name and address on it and its full of thousand dollar bills!”

No, that’s not what I heard, it was of course about the Japan quake. Luke and I had been watching a DVD so we didn’t know a thing about it.

It didn’t take long before the phone calls from Leilani and Kailana came in wanting to know if I had heard from their mom. I had not, but assured them that where she was everything was OK even though I had no idea where she was.

I calmed everyone down and told Luke to find a news station on the tube and let’s see what’s going on. As we watched the images from Japan and tsunami advisory was issued, this is just a heads up for those near the ocean to standby to standby for further news.

I began making calls to those I new who had boats or property near the shoreline to make sure they knew what was happening. After several calls and a message left to my friend Jeff McConnell he called me back to say he was in Las Vegas and had no idea about the quake/tsunami.

I offered to find our friend “Master Sailor David Hume” and should it become necessary we would head to the harbor and take Jeff’s beloved 40 foot Catalina sloop “Scotch Power” to sea and out of harm’s way.

David agreed to halt his beer consumption and make way to Honokohau in case the evacuation became necessary. No sooner had I hung up the phone and the tsunami sirens began to wail up and down the coast. A look at the tube confirmed it, there was in fact a tidal wave headed our way, ETA 3:30 AM.

Damn … things were just staring to look good again here in Hawaii, the last thing we need is a natural disaster screwing things all to hell and back again! Ah well, nothin’ I can do about that.

Kailana got home about that time and I sat her and Luke down and gave them the disaster briefing and since I was going to have to sail into deep water for the rest of the night they would have to take care of each other and the house till I got back the next day. They both told me not to worry, they’s be fine and knew what to do.

I could see in their eyes they were thinking ‘Jeez, Dad, why are you doing a dumb-ass thing like getting into a boat and sailing toward a tsunami … wouldn’t it be smarter to stay here at 500 feet above sea level?’

I met David at the boat about midnight and we talked story, drank beer and figured out a plan of action until at 1:30 a.m. we joined a flow of boats all making their way to deep water off shore. And we continued to spent the rest of the night flopping and bobbing about occasionally firing up the engine to avoid banging into one of the hundreds of other boats all drifting about several miles off shore.

It was quite boring and tedious, nothing exciting in the least occurred.

In the morning, we realized neither of us had thought to bring any food along and we were both starved! I managed to make a couple of cups of drinkable coffee and settled in to a day of letting M.S. David Hume sail me up and down the Kona Coast waiting for the Coast Guard to open up the harbors and let us go home.

By 2 p.m., we figured they must have forgot to clear Honokohau and so we said screw it let’s head in. Even these many hours later the water was still draining in and out of the boat basin causing swirls and sea water rising and falling as we tried to get into the boats slip.

It was like trying to land a blimp in a strong changing crosswind!

I had to run home and get ready for a photo shoot at the Orchid a couple hours later and so didn’t get a chance to go to town and see any of the damage that occurred when the water came ashore.

I did jump in my plane and fly the coast Tuesday trying see if I could see anything interesting. I first came across the Four Seasons Hualalai where the wave had crossed its beach wiping away the concrete pathway that wound along the coast. The wave breeched the anchaliane ponds filing them with sand, beach chairs and chaise lounges. Repairs are underway.

And a web gallery of Anaehoomalu Bay on the Kohala Coast:

— To see more of Powers’ aerial photography, visit

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