Updated: November 26, 2022
“Let me tell you a story about ka moana.”
That’s the opening line of a new animated public service announcement created by Oʻahu-based creative media company, Hyperspective, in coordination with the Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency to draw attention to the critical need to understand the natural warning signs of a tsunami, and what to do if one occurs.
Unlike hurricanes – which generally occur within in a certain parameter of time, or season, and often develop slowly, allowing more leeway for preparation and warning – tsunamis can occur at any time of year and with little or no warning.
The story of the PSA, which was produced in both Hawaiian and English, is the story of the ocean’s many personalities, from the small and inviting kai poʻi waves to the destructive force of tsunami waves.
“And an earthquake can awaken a monster that can destroy everything in its path,” the PSA goes on to say. “The tsunami.”
Tsunamis are caused by violent seafloor movement primarily as the result of an earthquake, but they can also be caused by large landslides, lava flows entering the sea, a seamount collapse, and even the impact of a meteorite.
State-of-the-art technological devices are deployed around the Pacific Ocean and monitored 24/7 – Deep Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami buoys and tidal gauges, to name a few – yet it can still be very difficult to predict when a tsunami will occur and how devastating the effects will be.
That is especially true of a local tsunami, meaning a tsunami generated by an earthquake, or other source, here in Hawaiʻi, where the warning time could be as little as a few minutes.
To that end, HI-EMA, in coordination with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and our county partners, operates the largest outdoor warning siren system in the United States to provide one critical element of the larger HawaiʻiAlert and Warning System, which includes the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts.
These alerts are designed to direct Hawaiʻi residents and visitors to the most current and up-to-date information in the event of a tsunami or other emergency.
But the primary message of the PSA, is that the land, and especially the ocean, speak to us, if we learn to feel, see, and hear nature’s warning signs.
If you are on the beach or near the shore and feel the ground shaking, if you notice the ocean recede from the shore suddenly, or you hear a deep rumbling noise coming from the sea, evacuate immediately to high ground and wait for officials to tell you when it is safe to return to shore.
“Don’t fool around, get to high ground,” the PSA closes.