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Waikiki heeds tsunami warning

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 1:43 a.m. HST, Oct 28, 2012

Waikiki hotels and businesses reacted quickly to Saturday night's tsunami warning.

By 9 p.m., most stores were closed or in the process of closing. While a light rain helped encourage most people to get off the street, Kuhio Avenue was jammed with cars heading out toward Kapahulu Avenue to higher ground.

"Even with the shorter notice, the visitor industry is prepared. ... Everyone is working together to ensure that we minimize the possible impact," Mike McCartney, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said from the Diamond Head command center, where the state's leaders have gathered.

Members of the HTA and of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and their communications teams set up an emergency center at the Hawaii Convention Center, he said.

"Usually the hotel's evacuate vertically, unless the building cannot stand the surf or waves," McCartney said earlier in the night. "Every hotel has an evacuation plan. Everybody is ready. "

McCartney said flights were delayed and canceled because of the tsunami warning.

He said visitors with questions in the aftermath of the tsunami scare can call the HTA’s 1-800-GO-HAWAII hotline. “You can get information there for each island.”

There are about 175,000 tourists in Hawaii today. “We thank them for their cooperation.” he said.

He reminded visitors to stay away from the water today until officials say it is safe since the tsunami’s effects on currents are expected to last for hours.

Guests at the eleven hotels affiliated with Starwood Hotels & Resorts vertically evacuated after the tsunami warning was issued, said Keith Vieira, senior vice president and director of operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Hawaii and French Polynesia.

"Everybody is going above the fourth floor," Vieira said.

While most of Starwood's hotels are running above 90 percent, Vieira said managers are working to relocate guests.

 Managers were called into work to assist with emergency plans, Vieira said. However, union workers who were not scheduled to work were not asked to come, he said.

The hotels have enough food and water in the system to make it through the emergency, Vieira said earlier in the night. 

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