In March 2011, Japan was hit by an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.9 — one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history. The earthquake sent a tsunami toward all of the islands of Hawaii. Hilo is particularly vulnerable to tsunamis, so the threat of damage and power outages caused a run on gas, water and other basic supplies. Although many people were out stocking up on the essentials, I have to say that the people in Hilo were orderly, calm and pleasant to one another in spite of their tsunami fears. I was quite impressed.
In the end, the tsunami waves peaked at about seven feet, which did not cause widespread damage. To date, all that I have heard is that one unfortunate person on the western side of the Big Island lost their home, but I do not know the details.
In this picture, a United States Coast Guard ship is in Hilo Bay, apparently supervising the return of all of the private boats that were scuttled out to sea to avoid damage. For a little while this morning, the bay had at least a couple dozen small boats floating around, but they were done by mid-afternoon.
Hilo is the home port of the Kiska, which is named for an Alaskan island. The Kiska is a small ship — slightly over 100 feet long — and my guess is that it is primarily used for search and rescue operations. The Kiska was involved in an incident in 2002, when it was used to catch a fishing boat from Taiwan called the “Full Means II.” A mutinous cook had stolen the boat, killing the captain and first mate in the process.