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Businesses in Hawaii, California Cope With Tsunami Impact


On the day after the tsunami that resulted from Japans' 8.9 earthquake hit Hawaii, small businesses in Hawaii are beginning to assess the damage. Businesses on the West Coast of the United States seem to have avoided major damage from the surge of water that hit in some areas, particularly in Northern California.

In Hawaii, damages are starting to add up, with the The Star-Advertiser newspaper reporting that surges caused extensive damage to piers. Beachfront hotels are reporting flooding.

Eric McCormick, Owner of Kona Boat Rentals in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, said he’s lost business and he’s trying to move customers’ reservations around.

“I don't think we're done yet. The parks are in pretty bad shape, and there’s still rubbish in the water,” McCormick told BusinessNewsDaily. “There's a house down in Kealakekua Bay, floating around. There are big logs and coconuts and stuff. For my business, I’d rather have it cleared up before we send anyone out.”

McCormick said he’ll focus on cleaning up today and wait another day before making a decision. He also said the effects of the tsunami could have been a lot worse.

“Everyone took serious precautions. It could have been a lot uglier. Everyone moved their boats to higher ground. If they were in the harbor, they moved them out to the water. But some still lost their boats,” he said.

“When the ocean’s turbulent like this, it’s normally quite predictable. But there could be a westerly swell tomorrow, and we don't know how that will interact with secondary tremors from Japan. I plan to stand by and watch closely, take it conservatively," he said.

Cat Figueira, office manager at Aqua Adventure, a diving and snorkeling company in Maalaea Harbor, in Maui, Hawaii, agrees that it could have been worse.

“We dealt with [the tsunami] really well. We evacuated Maalaea Harbor in the middle of the night to early morning,” Figueira said.

“We’re still not an all clear here. Our vessel is still out there with our crew on it. The whole island was prepared; I was really proud of us and how the defenses were handled. But, as I said, we still can’t get into the harbor. Our slip is still intact, but some boats in our spot and the one next to ours have sunk,” she said.

“I talked to the crew an hour ago. They’ll come back in a skiff for supplies, and then they'll go back out because there's no place to dock. We cancelled today’s tomorrow’s and Sunday’s trips. It’s spring break, so we’re hoping we’ll do good, because the last two years have been terrible. People are still pretty happy, though. We're lucky. It's not as bad as it could have been.”

“It's beautiful out now. You wouldn't have known there was a tsunami.”

Tourists should continue streaming into the Aloha State since the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau has posted an alert saying the post-tsunami situation is "rapidly becoming business as usual across the state," with "no major impact" to the six main islands, although a tsunami advisory remains in effect due to the possibility of strong currents and unusual ocean conditions. "Travelers heading to Hawaii should continue do so with confidence after checking with their airline as there may be some temporary delays," the alert continues, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.


Hawaiin Electric Co. may face unique challenges in helping restore power to businesses and residences since its workers, members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, are on strike. A company spokesperson told The Star-Advertiser that workers would return in the case of a "major emergency."

Before the tsunami hit, gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores were crowded with people stocking up on groceries, water and fueling up to flee areas affected by a tsunami warning, FoxNews.com reported.

In the Santa Cruz area of Northern California, damage was reported to fishing boats and docks, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Towns and businesses along the California coast have been preparing for a possible tsunami since last year, with a recent tsunami drill occurring last February.

The California Emergency Management Office has issued a statement regarding the Tsunami Warning, which is the highest level of alert regarding tsunamis, telling business owners and residents alike to leave for higher ground.

The California Department of Conservation, which, coincidentally, has next week (March 20-26) named as Tsunami Preparedness Week, says the best way for businesses to prepare for a tsunami, which usually comes with less warning than the current one, is to know if they are in a potential tsunami zone, know the quickest route to higher ground and pay attention to potential signs of a tsunami, such as a large roaring sound or the sudden receding of waves to reveal the bottom of the ocean floor.

So far, reports of damage to businesses have been limited. Many are fleeing the coast while others just watch and wait.

  • A Michigan-based business is reporting that all of its employees survived the earthquake in Japan. Office furniture retailer, Herman Miller, which opened a story in Tokyo in January, said its dozen employees in Japan are well and accounted for following a major earthquake and tsunami, according to the web site mLive.com. "What we are hearing is that people are accounted for and there doesn't appear to be any injuries," said spokesman Mark Schurman.
  • Cruise ship company Cunard reported its Queen Mary 2 ocean liner was in Osaka yesterday and is at sea headed for Nagasaki, her next scheduled port, located south west and away from the quake zone. A bridge webcam dated March 11 17:43 on the company's website relayed calm sea conditions at that time, according to SeaTradeInsider.
  • In the Northern California coastal town of Crescent City fisherman were reportedly preparing for the tsunami by leaving the harbor to ride out an expected swell, while residents living in a trailer park nearby are heading to higher ground, according to the local paper, Recordnet.com
  • In Manhattan Beach, Calif., a spokesperson for the police department told BusinessNewsDaily that all parking areas near beaches were closed, but there is so far, no mandatory evacuation or business closures.
  • In central coastal California, the San Luis Obispo chapter of the Red Cross has set up five disaster shelters for people evacuating coastal areas for the tsunami warning, according to ksby.com.
  • Residents living in low-lying areas along the Oregon coast are evacuating as a tsunami surges across the Pacific following a massive earthquake in Japan, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.  At least one hotel in Seaside has been evacuated. Guests were being moved to higher floors at another. Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a statement urging Oregonians along the coast to listen to warnings and follow instructions from public safety officials.
  • Erin Kirkland, an Alaskan family travel writer who is vacationing with her family in Portland, Ore., currently said right now, most people near her are “glued to their media.” “It’s a waiting game,” Kirkland said. “First there’s a little wave and you don’t know what’s going to come later.” Kirkland said she knows several families that are currently vacationing in Hawaii, but they are all reportedly all right, many sitting in parking lots in their rental cars, bored, but safe.
  • In Pismo Beach, Calif., in San Luis Obispo County, About 1,000 people and businesses have been evacuated and are gathering in a Wal-Mart parking lot away from the beach, according to the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

We will report on how small businesses in the affected areas fared as soon as reports are available.