The Hawaiian vacation of Mike Kluse, director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, was interrupted by pounding on his hotel room door at 2:15 a.m. Friday.
"You have to evacuate," said the hotel security officer at the door.
It was the first that Kluse and his wife, Gloria, had heard about the magnitude 8.9-earthquake in northern Japan.
At that time, a tsunami was projected to hit Hawaii less than an hour later.
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"We started throwing stuff in a suitcase," Kluse said.
Because they had a rental car, hotel security gave them a map that directed them to an outdoor shopping mall about two miles away on higher ground.
When they arrived, more than 100 cars already were parked there. A few people had computers connected to the internet, so they were able to follow news of the disaster.
They stayed at the mall for about five hours, until the alert was lifted and then returned to their hotel, the Marriott Kalapaki Beach Club in Kauai, where the worst that had happened was employees were slowed getting to work because of roadblocks. The Kluses had been on the third floor, the highest that had been evacuated.
The fear had been that as the tsunami hit the island it could wrap around to the east side, where the Marriott was. The Associated Press reported that a wave of about 3 feet was recorded at Kauai, but that water rushed up on roadways and into hotel lobbies on the Big Island and low-lying areas in Maui were flooded as 7-foot waves crashed ashore.
By noon, Mike Kluse was sitting on the beach, watching normal-sized waves, although Kauai still was under a tsunami advisory.
At the same time, across the Pacific Ocean at PNNL, a network with 40 monitoring instruments across Eastern Washington to detect vibrations in the surface of the ground was picking up the aftershocks of the earthquake in Japan. The network, like those at other major earthquake detection centers, had been detecting movement since Wednesday.
But there was no way to predict that those foreshocks would lead to the magnitude-8.9 earthquake, said PNNL researcher Alan Rohay.
The network used by PNNL with the goal of detecting local earthquakes picks up quakes of magnitude 6 anywhere on Earth.
The first major foreshock was a magnitude-7.2 event Wednesday about 25 miles from the Friday earthquake and three additional earthquakes of greater than magnitude 6 happened the same day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org