Posts Tagged ‘tsunami’

Manini Beach

Karen and Ron Repan are residents of Kealakekua Bay on the “Big Island” of Hawaii and are the owners of the charming and rustic Bali Tree Cottage. Popular on Airbnb, Karen and Ron enjoy renting out their cottage and meeting people from all over the world. Last year, my husband and I traveled to Hawaii and experienced this secluded slice of paradise. Little did we know that two years earlier on March 11, 2011, the residents of Kealakekua Bay were affected by a destructive tsunami brought on by the devastating 8.9 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan.

In an interview with Karen, she recounts her experience with the tsunami and the effect it had on the community.

Karen, as someone who has lived all over the world, what drew you and Ron to Kealakekua Bay?

Hawaii has the most temperate climate we have found. No extreme hot or cold weather. 83 degrees max, 72 low!  After living in Seattle, we were ready to move somewhere where we did not have to wear lots of clothes and heat or cool our home.

Plus, we love the ocean, especially one that we can swim in year round.

When the earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, was there immediate concern that Hawaii would be next?  If so, how did you and Ron prepare for the possibility of a tsunami?

We followed it on the news and heard it would hit around 5:00am. We didn’t really think we would be so impacted because the last evacuation we had for a potential tsunami was not necessary.

We were actually here when the first wave hit and could tell it was in our lower back yard! We got our elderly dogs in the truck and were able to get away south towards the City of Refuge. It was still really dark.

Had moved some cars to higher ground, but really did not do much else.  [We] will now heed any sirens and have great respect for what the ocean can do!

I can’t even fathom what that must have been like for you!  When my husband and I came to visit last year, it was hard to believe that your idyllic community was ravaged by a tsunami…but it became all too real when you gave us a tour of the area and pointed out an empty lot where a house used to be.  What did you discover upon your return home?

We were all shell shocked!  Very depressed for several months.  Did not want to go into the ocean for 6 months!

We had some very good friends up the hill that came with two of his visiting cousins that helped us clean up all the debris. Their moral support and hard work made all the difference!  None of our near neighbors realized what disaster we had in our backyard and concentrated on cleaning up Manini beach.

Thank goodness for John Farquhar and his two Canadian cousins!

TsunamiThe Repan’s backyard after the tsunami.
Photo credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiThe Repan’s backyard after the tsunami.
Photo credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiThe twisted and empty remains of a home’s foundation.
Photo credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiAlong the near shore is a home that was swept into the bay
(only their grey roof is visible).  Photo credit: John Farquhar

I’m glad your good friend John and his cousins were there for you during this difficult time!  Was the “Bali Tree Cottage” affected too?

Yes!  It got knocked off its’ foundation and moved 4 feet until it hit the ficus tree. A folded mattress was supporting one edge and the tree rooted supported the other edges.

TsunamiInside the Bali Tree Cottage.  Photo Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiThe Bali Tree Cottage was knocked off its foundation.
Photo Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiThe Bali Tree Cottage.  Photo Credit: John Farquhar

Oh wow!  You would never know it seeing how it looks today!  Were you renting it out at the time, or was this before you listed it on Airbnb?

It was before we added electricity and water to it. Had just finished building it!

Bali Tree CottageCurrent photo of The Bali Tree Cottage (2013)

From what I remember, your property is inland by about 1/2 block, and at that distance, the water brought so much destruction to your backyard!  How was the area closer to the shore effected, and how did you eventually get comfortable going back into the ocean?

We were absolutely appalled what the force of those waves did to Manini Beach. Several beautiful trees washed out to sea. We normally have an annual community beach clean up the Sat before the Tsunami but it was raining so we cancelled.  All the picnic tables we would have re-painted were washed out to sea!  It took quite awhile to see the positive things – more sand, new space to put a community garden….

So many fish were lost and huge heads of coral were turned upside down. But the ocean is healing, and the coral is coming back. Just felt different about the ocean knowing how destructive it could be.

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

The Manini Beach I saw was a slice of paradise complete with sand, coral and lava rocks. Is it my understanding that the tsunami pretty much relandscaped the beach into what it is today?

Yes. There was just coral and lava – no sand.  And the entrance to the water got carved out so we gained about 10 feet of chanel.  In the corner where the community garden is was just a jumble of night blooming cirus.

We lost a beautiful autograph tree and a big shade tree near the entrance gate.

IMG_0422Current Photo of Manini Beach (2013)

Manini BeachCurrent Photo of Manini Beach (2013)

By some miracle, no one lost their lives, but from photos I’ve seen, lots of personal property was damaged and destroyed. What kind of outreach did the community as a whole experience from others?

We saw in the papers that all agencies that offered help would be in one location on a certain day. Most people thought FEMA would step in and help but there was not enough damage for them to offer any help.

We went to check out what resources were available and signed up for a 2% loan from Small Business Administration.  Did not see many people there taking advantage of all the great programs available from various agencies including Red Cross.

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

Tsunami Photo Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: John Farquhar

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

TsunamiPhoto Credit: Karen Repan

Have the people of Kealakekua Bay grown closer as a community since the tsunami?

Our little community has had many trials – An arson that burnt down a new house, a 6.5 earthquake, and then another house fire (not arson).  It brings all of us closer as we band together to help others.  It is amazing how people not from this area came to support us!

Today, Karen and Ron enjoy renting out their wonderful Bali Tree Cottage to vacationers near and far, traveling to exotic destinations and taking in gorgeous sunsets on the renewed Manini Beach.

Manini BeachParadise renewed.





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Tsunami Warning

Coming this July is an exclusive interview with someone who experienced first hand the threat of living in a tsunami evacuation area.  Stay tuned…

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