Hawaii Island residents recall Kiholo Bay quakes

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Just past 7 a.m., 10 years ago today, two earthquakes struck Hawaii Island, inflicting more than $100 million in damage, but causing no deaths.


Just past 7 a.m., 10 years ago today, two earthquakes struck Hawaii Island, inflicting more than $100 million in damage, but causing no deaths.

For many, the two Kiholo Bay quakes, registering magnitude 6.7 under the bay and magnitude 6.0 off Mahukona, remain a profound life memory.

“I was on Oahu at the time, at the state level. That still ranks, in my mind, as one of the most-traumatic days as an emergency manager,” said Ed Teixeira, interim Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator.

Teixeira said the quake was so deep it shook the mantle, so the whole state felt it.

Power went down on Oahu for more than 20 hours. Voice communications failed because of cell tower failure. Rockslides blocked highways. A massive slide poured into the ocean at Kealakekua Bay.

Damage was concentrated on the north and west sides of Hawaii Island, but even Hilo District lost power, although it took only a few hours to restore.

Mayor-elect Harry Kim, who was mayor at the time of the quakes, was among staff who took turns being on-call for weekend civil defense. It was his weekend to be on-call, even though he and his wife had planned a lunch date to celebrate their anniversary.

When the ground started shaking, Kim yelled for his wife. But, before he could say anything, she yelled, “Earthquake!”

“I said, ‘See you!’ — she never saw me the rest of the day,” Kim said.

More than 370 buildings and facilities reported major damage, along with 370 private residences.

“It’s hard to believe that it was 10 years ago,” said Gary Hoff, Tribune-Herald cartoonist. A load of laundry had just been put into the dryer at his home and, at first, he thought the dryer might have gotten out of balance. But the shaking continued and, then, “our dog took off down the pasture.”

“I remember seeing a lot of signs for missing animals after the quake,” Hoff said. His dog was recovered safely.

Friends helped take precautions, such as shutting off the water after a main structural beam in his house cracked and water pipes broke.

He was surprised to see the Hawi smokestack, a remnant of the plantation days, had collapsed.

His wife, Linda Petrucelli, said recovery efforts after the quake were collaborative and included private citizens, nonprofits and agencies, such as Habitat for Humanity, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Catholic Charities and many others.

“It’s amazing that nobody was hurt. That was really like a miracle,” she said. It’s been a decade. But, “to me, it seems like a blink of an eye,” Petrucelli said.

Kona resident and former county Councilman Curtis Tyler said he was still in bed when the earthquake hit. He’d experienced many earthquakes, so he didn’t jump until it became clear the shaking wasn’t going to stop.

A grandfather clock, a family heirloom, “was actually moving enough that it actually made a dent in the wall — and it’s away from the wall,” he said. A crack in the earth went right up to the house.

“I really thought, at one point, that the house was going to come down,” Tyler said.

His wife was on Mauna Loa with friends on a retreat.

“They jumped out of bed and they expected to see a glow from Mauna Loa,” Tyler said.

The couple’s son, a DLNR forestry technician, was on Mauna Kea on a hunting trip.

“I couldn’t reach my son. My son called and he said it was unbelievable,” Tyler said. At first he thought his son was being dramatic.

“He said he thought he was going to die,” Tyler said. Boulders had been rolling toward his son and “they could actually see the ground undulating — they could see the waves moving across the ground.”

With each family member having a widely different but traumatic experience, Tyler was left with broken glass and china to clean up, which took him most of the morning.

“It could have been a lot worse. We could have lost a lot more than we did,” he said.

That’s a statement that fits the entire earthquake event.


Officials advise residents to prepare ahead of time — and be prepared for how to survive in the aftermath of an earthquake. Visit www.ready.gov/earthquakes for more information.

Email Jeff Hansel at jhansel@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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