It was a little after 8 p.m. when I got a ping on my iPhone.
My girlfriend and I had just sat down for dessert at Cafe Laufer in Kaimuki.
Apparently, the 7.7-magnitude earthquake off British Columbia that earlier posed no tsunami threat for the Hawaiian Islands was now imminent. City officials were calling for an “urgent evacuation” of all areas in inundation zones.
And that’s where the two of us lived.
So we left our desserts — I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from a bowl of ice cream in my life! — and headed out. We were stuck in traffic in the parking lot for about 20 minutes before we got on Kalanianaole Highway.
Urgent evacuation. And we had less than two hours to pack up and head for higher ground before the first wave was expected to hit Hawaii shores. She had to evacuate with two cats and an overly excited Boston terrier; I had two dogs and a slew of camera and computer equipment.
I’ll admit, there was a part of me that wanted to stay home. We evacuated last time and, thankfully, nothing happened. But I knew that it’s better to be safe than sorry, so I grabbed the dogs, my laptop, a bunch of external hard drives, my passport, some cash and headed to my parents’ house.
We watched the TV news all night, waiting for that first, then second, then third wave to hit. Nothing. Which is what you hope for during a tsunami threat. It’s not like I wanted a huge wave to destroy the eastern coastline of Oahu just because I made the effort to pack and evacuate.
But what I didn’t need to hear was the words of geophysicist — and nice guy, in my opinion — Gerard Fryer say the forecast was “an overprediction” and the evacuation “may not been necessary.”
It’s no wonder someone pulled him away from the TV cameras and he never came back on air.
You can’t tell people that, not when they’ve packed up their homes and belongings, ditched jobs, and cancelled very expensive Halloween events in Chinatown to get out of Dodge. Not only does it make them feel stupid, they’ll likely not believe you next time you call a tsunami warming.
And that’s the scary part.
Yes, I was annoyed that I had to ditch dessert and evacuate. I wound up sleeping on the bathroom floor with my dogs and getting sick the next morning. But it’s better than the alternative — that I stayed home and watched my entire neighborhood get swept away.
So despite the sore throat, the lack of sleep and the searing pain in my lower back, I’d do it again.
And I hope you will, too.