Residents who headed to Nanakuli High & Intermediate School said there were more people who sought higher ground at the campus than during last year’s tsunami warning.
About 900 people headed to the school throughout the night as sirens alerted residents of the tsunami warning.
About 10:30 p.m., Fe and Nestor Lagundino were among the first people at the school, having evacuated from their Maia Street home, three miles away in an inundation zone. Three hours later, there were about 200 vehicles.
Bottled water, a portable stove, rice cooker and canned chili and beef stew were some of the items loaded in the back of the couple’s silver-colored sports utility vehicle. “We are not worried. We just have to do what we need to do to be safe,” said Fe Lagundino. “It’s better to be safe,” said her husband.
Parked next to their SUV was their 20-year-old son, Neff and labrador, Hemi, who also spent the night at Nanakuli High in a pick-up truck.
Principal Darin Pilialoha arrived at Nanakuli High at about 9:30 p.m. immediately after he heard of a massive earthquake that devastated Japan. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, something is going to happen,'” said Pilialoha, as he drove around campus in a golf cart-like vehicle throughout the night and early-morning, checking on the welfare of evacuees.
Pilialoha was at Nanakuli High before the tsunami watch was announced, anticipating the throngs of Leeward Oahu residents seeking higher ground. A group of volunteers from the American Red Cross-Hawaii chapter also arrived to assist.
Two city buses picked up more than 200 homeless people from beaches and shelters along the Leeward Coast, transporting them to the school. Most headed to the school gym where families with their children bundled up in blankets.
Folding chairs and open canopy tents peppered the school’s parking lot with some monitoring the tsunami warning updates from their laptops or car stereos.
Under the covered hallways of the school’s multipurpose building, Nanakuli resident Hanalei Aipoalani sought shelter with his wife, three children and extended family equipped with a portable stove, food, and air mattresses for his children.
Aiopalani, vice chairman of the Nanakuli-Maili Neighborhood Board, said he noticed more people at the emergency evacuation shelter compared with last February’s tsunami warning. “People are aware of the dangers natural disasters pose,” he said.
By 6:30 a.m., some evacuees left Nanakuli High even though the warning had not been lifted yet.