Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tsunami !!

The Llaima volcano, near Chillan (the epicenter of yesterday's earthquake), snapped from the Villarica volcano near Pucon. The area is thick with active volcanos.

Weird timing. I'm sitting in the Admiral's Club at DFW, on my way home from Utah. The time is 10:34 CST. Last night a massive earthquake (1000 X more powerful than the one which flattened Haiti 6 weeks ago) struck the ski town of Chillan, Chile. As a result of this quake, in about 5 hours, a tsunami is supposed to hit the Hawai'ian Islands, where I am, coincidentally, headed.

The good news is I have to change planes @ LAX, and by the time I arrive at LAX, the situtation on the ground in Hawai'i will be clear. The tsunami will have come and gone. The early modeling data show a 9-12 foot tsunami hitting Maui. Ordinarily, 9-12 foot waves would result in boredom warnings being issued, as in winter, 40-50 foot waves are common. However, tsunami waves act differently than normal waves, as they sometimes surge for 15-20 minutes rather than 15-20 seconds. A tsunami that size could cause some serious damage.

Fortunately, my house is 3,450 feet above sea level on the North slope of the Haleakala volcano. Unfortunately, my car is parked at Kahului Airport, which is about 25 feet above sea level. Another potential problem is that the island's two power plants and sewage-processing plants are also located about 25-50 feet above sea level. And finally, all the airport runways in the state of Hawaii capable of handling large aircraft are also located less than 50 feet above sea level. The airports on Moloka'i and Lana'i are quite a bit higher, but they have very short runways designed only for small inter-island aircraft.

Should be an interesting day.

In another case of strange coincidence, I was in Chillan, Chile (the epicenter of the earthquake), about 6 months ago. I went skiing all over Chile in August of '09, and not only did I visit Chillan, but the best skiing of the trip was in a resort called Nevados de Chillan, which is about 25 miles from there. I fear the Nevados de Chillan ski resort is now a pile of rubble, but I'm sure I will find out soon exactly what has happened there.

Skunk tracks in Nevados de Chillan. August, 2009

Volcanic vents near the top of Nevados de Chillan

The Mighty Skunk, high atop Nevados de Chillan.

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