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Nervous residents stocked up for tsunami

    Tsunami warning sends people to stores and gas stations for supplies and fuel Thursday night. Cars lined up at Tesoro 2/Go on King Street.

Around the Islands, residents scrambled for supplies and higher ground, waiting for news of whether a tsunami would sweep the islands.

Tensions grew high last night at the Hawaii Kai Chevron gas station, where long lines of vehicles stretched out onto Kalanianaole Highway toward Hanauma Bay.

As some vehicles tried to get in, some driver yelled at one another and honked horns.

Jesse Halsey, a friend of the station’s owner, watched the scene and said, “People are obviously concerned about the tsunami and wanted to top off fuel. But because there is no sense of order in terms of lining up to the pump people are getting antsy.”

Chris Veatch, a Hawaii Kai contractor, waited in line because, “I’m just worried about a gas situation. If we get hit by a 12-footer it would wipe this place out and the 76 station up the road, too.”

By 11 p.m., the station had run out of all grades except premium, which was running at $4.09 per gallon.

Danette Keola, also of Hawaii Kai, sat in the line of cars in her blue Volkswagen microbus.

“It’s hard to take this seriously,” she said. “The last one we thought would hit and nothing happened.”

Adrian Valentin went to the Hawaii Kai Foodland to stock up on water.

“We’re cautiously optimistic,” she said. “I’ve been through this many times in the last 50 years. But you want to be prepared.”

Fred Lau of Punchbowl drove to the Kailua Safeway to stock up.

“At first, there was no water left to sell — it was almost gone —but then a palette of water bottle packs came out, so I was able to pick up a couple,” he said. “But now I’ve been in line waiting to pay for about a half-hour.”

Hosanna Folk of Pauoa Valley emerged from the store with a cart topped out with grocery items and water.

“I have a family with five kids, so I have more to be concerned about,” Folk said. “I have a lot here because — who knows? — it could be a week, a month, before things go back to normal if we’re hit by a tsunami. I don’t want to be stuck without anything.”

Mayor Peter Carlisle said there hadn’t been major problems in the evacuation except for some areas that had gridlock.

City buses helped to evacuate homeless in the area past Keaau and the hau bush area in Ewa Beach and took them to shelters at Makaha Community Park, Ewa District Park, and other areas.

“The evacuation is going as predicted and we have helicopters in the air,” Carlisle said last night. He said two helicopters searched for people who might have still been in the evacuation zone and needed help getting out.

Paramedics had to help about six people on the Windward side who were bed-bound and could not evacuate themselves, said James Ireland, director of the city Emergency Services Department. He said they were taken to the hospital out of the evacuation zone.

Carlisle said hospitals were getting an influx of people who didn’t have acute medical problems seeking shelter. Hospitals didn’t have resources for those seeking shelter and it strained resources for those with medical emergencies. 

“It’s been a busy night even without the tsunami,” he said. The department voluntarily recalled employees and placed six ambulances on duty besides the regular 19, he said. Paramedics also opened an emergency operations center near the airport to help coordinate any emergency responses.

He said there was an elevated risk of more medical emergencies from the stress of the situation.

Several families in McCully packed up their cars with water and supplies and prepared to head to higher ground.

“I’m packed,” said Pauline Smith, 19, who was planning to evacuate with her husband and 2-year-old son.

She added, “I’m nervous.”

Mara Sagapolu rushed home from her job in Waikiki to get ready to evacuate. She said she wouldn’t evacuate until later in the evening, but was ready if she needed to leave quickly.

“We’re just kind of playing it by ear,” she said.

Steve Mailo, 36, was outside his home smoking a cigarette, taking a break from watching the news.

“I’m just ready to move,” he said. 

Puka Asing of Papakolea worried about his cousin, Moon Kauakahi of the Makaha Sons, who flew out this morning to work in Japan. 

“March is a big season for hula festivals there,” Asing said. “They were going to play in Tokyo, and I know they must’ve landed by now, but I don’t know how much they can travel because the rail lines are down.”

As news of the tsunami warning spread, thousands of people packed supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations to stock up on supplies in the event of blackouts or other disruptions.

St. Francis Health Care System of Hawaii senior vice president Dave Kowalski stopped by the 76 gas station  at King and Piikoi Streets in hopes of filling up the tank of his truck only to find the six lines of pumps backed up eight cars deep. He settled for several bags of ice from the adjoining 7-11.

All the while, he kept his mobile phone in hand to keep abreast of the latest developments and make sure the health system’s disaster response plan was keeping up with events.

“We’re doing whatever we can to make sure our staff and patients are safe,” he said.

At Safeway on Beretania, hundreds of shoppers swarmed the aisles, picking the shelves clean of water, toilet paper, canned goods and other disaster essentials.

Patty Shirakawa of Nuuanu stopped by the market on the way home from picking up her daughter and was stunned by the scene.

“I’m hoping that nothing happens but it’s always better to be prepared,” Shirakawa said as she divined a pathway out of the store.

With seven registers open and reinforcement cashiers on the way, checkout lines snaked across the front of the store, along the side aisles, all the way to the back.

“This happens every time there’s an alarm,” said manager Kevin Gomban, who joined his employees in working the register and bagging. “It’s crazy, but it’s nothing new, nothing surprising.”

Louis O’Claray of McCully went to Don Quixote on Makaloa after being turned away at a Times Supermarket. The scene inside left him shaking his head.

“It’s a madhouse,” he said, laughing. “People are behaving themselves, but it’s just packed in there.”

O’Claray said he had ample supplies for himself at home, but wanted to pick up a few extras — ice, water, Spam — just in case his elderly neighbors needed a hand.

“It could be nothing, but it’s always good to be prepared just in case,” said O’Claray, who first learned of the tsunami when his brother in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada called him. “Better safe than sorry.”

Along Mokapu Road by the H-3 freeway, about 50 cars lined up in a grassy area, all pointing to the ocean.

“Oh this is the place,” said Kronen Loando of Kaneohe, who drove to the spot with his cousin, Mike Pascua and six children who slept in their van. “Last time we saw the water change color from green to brown. … I was watching the baseball game at home when the Civil Defense (warning) came across the screen. I said, ‘This is it, kids. Let’s go.'”

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