Evacuees gathered at Walmart, holding sites

LIHU‘E — Jon Hashimoto, the cafeteria manager at King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School, said he could feed up to 3,000 people if necessary.

“All I need is the green light,” Hashimoto said, while helping the convention crew from Kaua‘i Beach Resort Saturday night where a capacity crowd waited out the tsunami warning generated after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck Canada’s Queen Charlotte Islands region.

Assistant Guest Services Manager Carol Sibayan said they had about 400 guests in-house when the warning to evacuate was received.

“A lot of the guests left in their own cars, but a lot of them came on the bus,” Sibayan said. “We had a function taking place which had to be shut down. Some of the guests at that function are also guests at the resort.”

Nelson Batalion of Kaua‘i Beach Resort said they had less than an hour to pack up things in a van to accompany the guests.

But it was not the first time the crew has had to do this, so they were prepared with assorted cold drinks and water, as well as chips and supplies to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Sibayan said.

“I don’t want special treatment,” said 97-year-old Eunice Masumura-Sakata of Kaimuki, O‘ahu. “If people see me with a chair, then they’ll all want chairs.”

Masumura-Sakata was one of the participants at the state Family and Community Education convention taking place at the Kaua‘i Beach Resort.

“We approved the convention agenda today, but the tsunami wasn’t on the agenda,” Masumura-Sakata said. “Where is it in the convention book?”

Fig Mitchell, vice principal for King Kaumuali‘i, did his best to entertain the guests, tossing out tidbits about the school and using his skill as an announcer to help guests pass the time.

“We’ve been here four times already,” Mitchell told the crowd. “See the Tennessee pennant? It’s not that we watch football,  it’s to help our kids in selecting colleges. If any of you want to send us pennants of your college, we’ll gladly add them to our collection.”

Over at Walmart, two visiting youth football teams, the Waianae Warriors and the Kapolei Islanderz, had little trouble setting up a giant tailgate gathering in the far parking lot.

“We’re at the Aloha Beach Resort and they told us to go to Opaekaa Falls,” one parent said. “Someone else told us to go check out the Sleeping Giant. But we came to Walmart because now the kids can eat at McDonald’s and we can hang in the parking lot. What time do they close?”

The teams were joined by other visitors, many of whom were told to head to the Walmart parking lot from the places they were staying.

“I can’t go home because they’re stopping traffic at the airport,” one engineer from the county reassured people who were worried about the proximity of Walmart to the ocean. “I live in Kapa‘a, and I can assure you, there are other places more prone to inundation.”

Another employee from Duke’s at Kalapaki Beach was worried about his fiancé, who was in Kapa‘a.

“My mother just called from Washington state and said there were 14-foot waves, measured from the back, hammering Waikiki,” he said. “All I get is this ‘do not disturb’ message.”

Several of the people staying in Po‘ipu made their way to the Elsie Wilcox Elementary School cafeteria where Paul Zina, the school’s vice principal, came in from Kalaheo to open up the place. The school got a visit from Major Mario Reyes of the Salvation Army.

“There are schools open around the island,” Zina said. “I got the email to open the school even before I got the Civil Defense warning on my cell phone. The schools which are open have quite a number of residents staying there; I can’t really get a count because the email is patchy.”

Young Samantha Schey of San Francisco, Calif., was escorted to the Wilcox cafeteria after a resident became concerned about the welfare of the young girl who was among the people milling about the Walmart parking lot.

Samantha’s mother, Shonnon, said they were scheduled to leave Kaua‘i Sunday, following a 10-day stay, and if they were unable to get back to their place in Po‘ipu, they were going to have the people pack up their things and ship it to them.

“I had a friend who just arrived here for a five-day stay and she’s on the beach,” Shonnon said. “Thank heaven, the cell phone worked and we could get word to her.”

Earlier in the evening, the Civil Air Patrol took to the air on a tsunami warning mission to patrol remote beaches where campers might be staying.

Shonnon and Samantha were accompanied by Michelle Martin of Ashland, Ore., and said that on the way from Po‘ipu, they saw cars parked everywhere on the highway as well as a large number gathered at the Kaua‘i Community College.

“They don’t know where to go,” Shonnon said. “We were told to go to the Walmart parking lot, and thanks to that nice lady who drove us to this holding spot.”

A couple from Japan staying at the Wyndam Resorts in Princeville were trapped following a day of hula at the Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Hall.

“We can’t get back to our hotel,” the husband said. “We checked in on Friday, and today, we spent the day at hula at the convention hall. Now, we hear about tsunami and we cannot get back to our hotel.”


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