Quake Jolts Hawaiian Islands

Sergeant Timmy Meyer thought the roof of the police station was going to cave in. Others were worried about a possible tsunami. “This is the worst I’ve experienced in a lifetime,” said Meyer. “I never experienced an earthquake this big.”

Officials began inspecting bridges and roads across Hawaii on Monday following the strongest earthquake to rattle the islands in more than two decades, a 6.7-magnitude quake that caused blackouts and landslides but no reported fatalities.

According to the Molokai Police Department, the quake caused temporary power outages in Kalae, which shut down two water pumps for a short amount of time. Minor rock slides on the east end were quickly cleared. No other major damage was reported.

Molokai fared well compared to other islands, where airports and even hospitals were shut down for a significant length of time.

"It lets you know Mother Nature is doing her thing," said Robin Eising, a teacher at Waikoloa Elementary School, which was closed for the day for inspection. "It was a wake-up call."

Still, officials cautioned that they needed to inspect the many bridges, roads, earthen dams, schools and other structures across the Big Island, the isle closest to the epicenter.

Ray Lovell, state Civil Defense spokesman, said a loss estimate was not immediately available because damage was so scattered. "It's just premature to come up with dollar estimates right now," he said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency flew a 100-member response team to Honolulu on Monday with plans to go to the Big Island on Tuesday.

Bob Fenton, FEMA's director of response for the region, said officials were hearing of "light to moderate" damage to infrastructure.

Utilities restored power to 97 percent of the state's customers by early morning. Most of Oahu, the most populous island, with more than 800,000 of Hawaii's 1.2 million residents, had been blacked out on Sunday.

Honolulu residents, however, were urged to continue conserving water while supplies were still being replenished.

The quake hit at 7:07 a.m., 10 miles north-northwest of Kailua-Kona, on the west coast of the Big Island. On Monday, the U.S. Geological Survey raised its measurement of the magnitude to 6.7 from a preliminary 6.6.

At least one stretch of road leading to a bridge near the epicenter collapsed, Civil Defense Agency spokesman Dave Curtis said. Several other roads on the Big Island were closed by mudslides, debris and boulders, but most were still passable, he said.

At the 94-bed Kona Community Hospital – the only hospital within 100 miles – crews were cleaning up. Thirty long-term care patients were taken to a hotel, and six were airlifted across the island to another hospital.

Donald Lewis, president and chief executive, said the hospital was operating at about 10 percent Monday. No patients or staff were injured.

"God was on our side," Lewis said. "It's not as bad as it could've been."

Many Hawaii residents breathed a similar sigh of relief. On the Big Island, people were already returning to work and their lives, as bicyclists training for Saturday's Ironman World Championship zipped along the highway.

"If you're going to have an earthquake, you couldn't have had it at a better time – early in the morning when people aren't even out of their homes yet," Curtis said. "I think people, under the circumstances, have remained very calm."

John P. Lockwood, a former USGS volcanologist who is now a private consultant, said another blessing was that the quake did not divert lava flows from Kilauea Volcano to populated areas. The lava flows safely into the sea.

Even so, "this brings to forefront the need for people to have 72 hours' worth of supplies to keep them going" after a quake, said Kim Walz, a spokeswoman with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

On Monday morning, the Honolulu airport was filled with passengers still waiting for a flight out.

Silas Garrett, a 52-year-old truck driver from Memphis, Tenn., had been there since 8 a.m. the previous morning. He said he and his five sisters slept on the floor using beach towels as blankets and handbags as pillows.

"Every pound we gained on the cruise ship, we lost in the airport," Garrett said. "The quake shook it off."

But other tourists continued to arrive by the planeload, and some who experienced the quake saw no need to cut short vacations.

"As long as the airports are open, we're OK," said Dave Kenny of Hortonville, Mich., who was with his wife and another couple at Volcanoes National Park when Sunday's quake struck.

"We figured it was a show that Hawaii put on just for us," Kenny said.

State officials also moved to dispel ideas that Hawaii-bound tourists should change plans.

"We are open for business," Gov. Linda Lingle said.

Todd Yamashita contributed to this report


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