Sunday, March 31, 2013

Musings: Getting It

It's Easter, one of those odd church-n-chocolate holidays co-opted from the Pagans. I leave my 60-degree house and stand in the shimmer of sun on surf, clutching bits of beach glass in the pastels of painted eggs, and look down at the sand, where someone has written, He is Risen. And I thought, if you were God, and subscribed to Christian mythology, wouldn't you be kind of pissed that you'd sacrificed your Only Begotten Son — and people still hadn't gotten it, all these years later?

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the 1946 tsunami, the one trigged by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, which created a series of powerful waves that struck the island with a maximum run up of 45 feet, killing at least 14 people in Wainiha-Haena, including many children, and destroying numerous homes. 

As the Star-Bulletin reported at the time:

All bridges at Wainiha (between Hanalei and Haena) were washed out at the same time. [T]he YMCA camp on the flat at Haena was completely destroyed. The tiny village at Wainiha is flat.

Even more telling:

Haena was isolated yesterday from rescue teams.

That very same coastline is now lined with lavish acation rentals that together sleep hundreds of unsuspecting tourists, some of them in illegal ground floor bedrooms in the flood zone. And Haena is still isolated from rescue teams whenever it floods.

I was talking to a friend the other day, a guy who helped build the original Billie Jean King hale, back in the late '70s. He and another worker were surprised to find small concrete pads, steps that went nowhere, when they began clearing the lot and adjacent properties. Puzzled, they questioned an old-timer, a member of the Tai-Hook clan, who told them, “Those steps used to lead into houses; the concrete slabs were their wash rooms. But when they got washed away in the '46 tsunami, all the people moved away from the beach, up Wainiha Valley.”

Today, as I've reported in the Abuse Chronicles, the old King hale is now the King and the Princess, a multi-family TVR with a bedroom, sitting area and full kitchen on the ground floor.

In fact, nearly every permit-challenged TVR profiled in the series — we're at number 10, with more still to come — is located on the same stretch of sand that was scoured clean in '46, and again in the tsunami of 1957. As the Honolulu Advertiser reported after the '57 event:

On North Kauai alone, damage came to the neighborhood of $2 million, more than double the amount of wreckage the 1946 tidal wave caused on the Garden Island.

Some 75 homes were demolished or damaged along the 15 mile strip between Kalihiwai and Haena. An estimated 250 persons were homeless. More than 1,000 were isolated when the Kalihiwai bridge crumbled under the power of the waves.

A survey of the little towns along battered North Kauai was testimony to the power of the waves that rolled down from their Aleutian breeding ground.

Out of 29 homes that once stood at Haena, only four can now be lived in. A YMCA boys' camp, recently repaired from 1946 tidal wave damage, was washed out to sea. Power and telephone lines were down for a mile along Haena flats.

Authorities said it was miraculous that there were no injuries or deaths on the neighbor islands, especially Kauai where it was almost by chance that residents of Hanalei and Haena got warning of the approaching disaster.
Would the same be true if a tsunami hit today? Where would all the tourists go, guided only by the flood inundation maps in telephone books, provided they were lucky enough to get a warning? How much damage would the illegally enclosed structures inflict on the homes of permanent residents? How long would it take for rescue crews to get there, or stage an evacuation? Who would care for the tourists in the meantime?

It took a string of recent visitor drownings to stir some sort of official action, in the form of a water safety video that will be screened for tourists grabbing their luggage in baggage claim.

But nothing is said of the dangers that await the tourists in county-sanctioned vacation rentals that sell an ocean “just steps from the house,” and “secluded beaches” far from lifeguards and hospitals.

Fourteen lives were sacrificed in '46, no doubt some of them only begotten sons. Yet people still haven't gotten it, all these years later.


Anonymous said...

Boo. Why do you have to be all anti-Christian. They're not all bad. Aloha and have a great Easter.

Anonymous said...

Pray for waves!!

Here is a sobering reality.
Are your taxes really worth it. I haven't seen the FBI yet.

Watch this video, at least one sheep gets it.


Anonymous said...

Very Christian of you, could be a life saver if the county gets a grip. Or they will wait till after the next tsunami and count the death toll of tourists .Stupid county to put the visitors in places with only that stupid phone book recommendation.
15 minutes to evacuate when it comes from the Aleutians, the road along the coast is not an option.

Anonymous said...

A massive tsunami or hurricane is what Kauai needs! It'll be the solution to GMO crops, illegal TVRs, the bike path, AND Coco Palms!

Anonymous said...

If there was a tsunami along the magnitude of '46 can you just imagine the possible loss of life in a fully occupied TVR north shore and the ensuing law suits against the county for allowing such blatantly fraudulently permitted and illegally built (in a flood/disaster zone) visitor accommodations. And the county was worried about being sued for denying a lot of those TVR permits. Unbelievable!!

to anon. 2:36... don't forget the landfill ( trash heap) out Mana way.

Anonymous said...

Religion is a farce. It is the most divisive and violent instrumentalities of all time. More people have died in the name of god than for any other reason. Remember your beliefs do not make you a better person your behavior does. There is never a polite way to tell a person their whole life has been devoted to a folly. Since it is incomprehensible that all the religions are correct the logical conclusion is that try are all incorrect. Think about it. If you were born in Israel you would probably be Jewish. If you we're born in Saudi Arabia you would probably be Muslim. If you we're born in India you would probably be born Hindu. But since you we're born in America you are probably Christian or catholic. Your faith is not inspired by some Devine cause or truth but simply geography. Open your eyes. You are welcome. Happy Easter.

Anonymous said...

I want to be a Christian. But I can't get a Christian to satisfactorily answer for me this: If God IS all powerful, then why did he have to kill his son to forgive us?

Blahblahblah said...

Who did the math on that "15 min from the Aleutians"???

That's hugely off.

Tsunami speeds are around 500 MPH in deep water and slow down in shallow water. So 15 min would correspond to about 100 miles away....So unless Oahu is in the Aleutians, this statement is BS.

And if a few tourists are subject to natural selection it's not the end of the world.

As the Xtianity thing, if "God" is all powerful, why does he/she demand trivial creatures worship him/her? Seems a bit odd.

Anonymous said...

to the last poster, how would you feel if the tourist was your mother or brother?

Anonymous said...

It would be tragic to see tourists lose their lives. The county and residents could also lose their flood insurance or see premiums go up if FEMA finds houses were not in compliance.

Anonymous said...

Only a complete lack of history would lead to today's reality in that area. It is safe to say, there has been NO PLANNING.Thanks for the reminder, it's not a joke.

Anonymous said...

Should no one visit the Midwest because tornadoes there kill dozens of people every year. A tiny chance of a large disaster is the same kind of choice we make every time we get on an airplane. Nothing to see here.

Anonymous said...

I always find it humorous when topics get hijacked from the intended topic to (pick one):

1) Obama is an idiot
2) Obama is the savior
3) Challenge the existence of God
4) etc.

Regarding the 'natural selection' comment ... come on people lighten up. It is a manner of speaking, certainly in (modest) jest by the 'anonymous' author. It's always the way ... it isn't real, doesn't cut close until it is personal. I'm one of those tourists that could be 'naturally selected'. It happens. I just intend to be right with God when it happens to me.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps if several dozen readers ask the FBI at once to investigate our corrupt planning department for public fraud something would get done.

Vida G. Bottom
Special Agent in Charge
Honolulu FBI
91-1300 Enterprise Street
Kapolei, HI 96707

Tel: 808 566 4300

Anonymous said...

Good idea, Anonymous 12:24 PM.

Go ahead and toss all county departments in--including the FBI investigating the police shooting of the citizen who was on his roof throwing bamboo poles at the cops and KPD Officer Calio opens fire and kills this 60 year old man.

Justice won't be served in the Kauai courts. Glad Dan Hempey took this case.

Anonymous said...

incompetence isn't fraud, maladministration might be...

Anonymous said...

So today's GI regarding Coco Palms....."The issue of project entitlements and control of the beach is central to a project that intends to recreate the Coco Palms as it looked in its prime, Duddy said. If that is lost then the deal is dead because the hotel needs that element for its marketing goals, he added"

CONTROL OF THE BEACH??? WTH? What is he saying?

Anonymous said...

Re Wailua was it another one of the back room deals planners worked out with developers? did they give the coco palms developers the beach?, maybe that is why da dumbfuck mayor needed to build the bikepath there on the beach like a maniac, maybe that is why they say the path is for access, cause they know they gave your beach away.

Or is it more likely the developer does not know what he's talkin about, and does not know Hawaii beaches are not private.
Seems planning is full of incompetant crooks, so ya neva know...

Anonymous said...

good thing da mayor doesn't have control of the beach...

Anonymous said...

"Fourteen lives were sacrificed in '46, no doubt some of them only begotten sons. Yet people still haven't gotten it, all these years later."

A little dramatic even for you Joan, although I understand your need for the Easter reference.

What exactly is IT that people haven't "gotten"? The entire island is at risk for any number of natural disasters, including devastating hurricanes that could wipe us all out. Should the entire island be roped off and off-limits?

Whether they have an illegal 1st floor structure or not, whether it's a lavish TVR or the kind of one room shack that you seem venerate in your articles - these homes are driftwood when the sea comes-a-knockin like it did in '46. I'm just not buying the doom and gloom argument you've tried to make here.

The most compelling point you've made is the environmental impact these high-capacity TVRs are having in the area. Anyone who's smelled Hanalei after a good flood knows something ain't right.

This is not to say people should be allowed to skirt the law. If the planning department wasn't under the control of a plainly corrupt mayoral administration, the county council wasn't filled with politicians instead of public servants, and the D.A. wasn't scared of his own shadow, there would be some enforcement that fined these folks appropriately and then taxed the bejeezus out of them to ensure that there is proper wastewater infrastructure to limit the environmental impact. It's either that, or knock it all down and rope the place off. But, like I said, if we're going to start saying you can't live somewhere inherently dangerous - Kauai, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Detroit should be evacuated immediately.

Joan Conrow said...

You ask: "What exactly is IT that people haven't "gotten"?"

I'll spell it out: An area where 14 people died in a tsnuami, an area that is frequently cut off from outside help, an area that regularly experiences high waves and flooding, isn't an appropriate place to house hundreds of unsuspecting visitors.

If folks CHOOSE to live in the flood zone, that's their choice. But to lure unsuspecting, unaware, unassisted visitors to commercial properties in one of the most dangerous spots on the island — especially housing them in illegal ground floor units in violation of federal flood laws — is a very different story, both ethically and legally.

But I'm glad you at least "got it" that these places create a serious environmental impact — one that extends well beyond their wastewater treatment.

Andy Parx said...

Thanks Joan- I just keep thinking "can you even fathom the liability?" It's almost incalculable with all the gross- and active- negligence multipliers. And we're sooo overdue.

Anonymous said...

It's all about the money. Ain't that America?

"Lawmakers in New York Tied to Bribery Plot in Mayor Race"

The two men sat in the state senator’s parked car in suburban Rockland County, but New York City was at the front of their minds and the focus of their conversation.

What the senator, Malcolm A. Smith, wanted to do, the other man explained, was going to cost “a pretty penny.”

“But it’s worth it,” replied Senator Smith, a Democrat, according to a transcript of the January meeting. “Because you know how big a deal it is.”

Anonymous said...

April 1, 2013 at 9:23 PM, his realtor told him, "Yeah, the property comes with the beach, which is always really wide, and it's safe for swimming all year 'round".

Anonymous said...

You folks sure love to dress up your issues with overdevelopment and mis-use of the rules with BS side issues.

Like the idea that once every 50 years or so a handful of people who ignore tsunami warnings might drown is really an important concern? In this day and age, tsunami alerts come hours in advance of the waves. Even in way out Haena, there's time to get out or get up hill.

All this is angst is similar to the flap about the trees in Koloa. The issue was too rapid development, but the emotional hook was some trees, many of which were unhealthy in the first place. It discredits those making these silly arguments.

Anonymous said...

I get it that some people don't get your point , but guaranteed those are not the people who lived through the tsunami, had loved ones die, or that experienced the reality of the 46 and 57 tsunami's.
No building would be possible in the tsunami and flood zone without the flood insurance program provided by the gov. that allows building in the hazard zone only above the flood hazard. The Federal gov insure the buildings as long as they meet the height requirements.Now it seems pretty clear from your abuse chrons, the county has allowed many to completely abandon the requirements and has increased the hazards .
Tsunami's come from many directions, and warnings don't always allow for the hours of time to evacuate. Some people may be fooled since we have had several warnings and events that did not come to pass, but historically speaking, time is not on our side.My vote is the county needs to investigate this abuse and correct it.

Dawson said...

"You folks sure love to dress up your issues with overdevelopment and mis-use of the rules with BS side issues.

Like the idea that once every 50 years or so a handful of people who ignore tsunami warnings might drown is really an important concern?"

Now where have we heard that head-in-the-sand defense of the status quo before?

Oh yeah -- from Larry Vaughn, the mayor of Amity Island in Jaws.

HOOPER: Mr. Vaughn, what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine - an eating machine. It's really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat and make little sharks, and that's all. Now why don't you take a long, close look at this sign. Those proportions are correct.

VAUGHN: Love to prove that, wouldn't ya. Get your name into the National Geographic.