ANOTHER DOOMSDAY FAKEOUT
As I write these words, the East Coast is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy–one of the largest storms ever recorded in the North Atlantic. There was severe flooding in New York and Atlantic City. The storm’s total death toll in the Caribbean and U.S. is nearly 100, and it’s still affecting an estimated 50 million people.
Kinda puts Saturday night’s little tsunami scare into perspective, right? Of course, none of us knew at the time that the tsunami waves, though real, were actually quite small and wouldn’t hurt anyone or damage anything, beyond the business generated by a few Halloween costume parties at various bars.
See, at 7pm on Saturday night, my girlfriend and I had another couple over for dinner, and seeing our landlady in the kitchen window telling us that there was just a massive earthquake in Canada and the whole state was now under a tsunami warning was sobering. And don’t ask what we thought when we saw that scary computer model showing all of the tsunami’s projected energy directed at Maui like some Finger of Doom.
So we did what most people who live well outside the evacuation zone do: we popped open some beers, turned on the TV and watched a bunch of sleepy local news anchors stare at loons walking on Kuhio Beach in Waikiki. The fascinating part was that even though Weather Kahuna Guy Hagi and the rest of the Honolulu news people kept repeating that disaster officials were predicting that the highest waves would hit Maui–specifically Kahului Harbor–no one actually had anybody reporting there.
Turns out there weren’t any tsunami warning buoys between here and Canada. (Hey, Larry Ellison: Wanna help Maui County? Pay to ring the islands with a grid of buoys.) At least the whole thing was over before the network affiliates could develop some cheesy “Tsunami Watch 2012” news graphic.
Close to 10pm (the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that the first waves would hit the beaches at 10:28pm), my buddy and I got bored and decided to walk down Keonekai to South Kihei Road. Not to stand on the beach like an idiot, but just to take measure of the situation. After filling the bathtub with water (county officials said they were shutting off the water as a precaution), we headed out. We hadn’t even reached Keonekai yet when we saw a Maui Police cruiser race towards Pi‘ilani Highway, its flashers on and something unintelligible blaring from its loudspeaker.
“Did you understand what that cop said?” three neighbors asked as we walked by. We had no clue.
Shrugging our shoulders, we headed down the road. It was very quiet out–like it was much later in the evening than 10pm. Along the way we passed a homeless guy, who clearly had been rousted out of his Kam Beach hideout. “Where are we supposed to go?” he asked us. After telling him he’d be fine where he was (the county’s disaster maps showed the inundation zone stopped at South Kihei Road), he plopped down against a telephone poll.
Down at the lower road, it was even eerier. Because the gas stations had closed, the whole place was deserted. A few cars drove past us, heading up the hill. One driver helpfully told us that we’d better leave, and we thanked him for the advice. After standing around awkwardly in the dark for a few minutes, and the doomsday sirens started wailing again, we walked back up the hill. Passing Keonekai Park, I saw that a few sprinklers were on.
And that was pretty much it. We watched more TV, and then around 1am, when it was pretty clear nothing bad was going to happen (in Kihei or anywhere else on the island), our friends walked home. Just before bed, I went into the bathroom to empty the tub, only to find nothing to drain since I’d failed to completely close the drain plug.
WMSA ‘UNILATERALLY CANCELS’ LEASE
It’s hard to convey exactly how dire it is over at the Wailuku Main Street Association (WMSA). Let’s start with the fact that the County of Maui is holding their most recent $243,000 grant hostage. That means the WMSA has no money coming in, which would doom any nonprofit out there. But when you add the fact that the state Attorney General’s office is investigating the WMSA for all manner of bad behavior (including mismanagement of their taxpayer-funded grants, violations of numerous bylaws and alleged political activity that could ultimately doom their tax status), things begin to look absolutely apocalyptic.
But don’t feel bad for WMSA board chairman Tom Cannon. The guy is a rock. You’ve all seen Monty Python And The Holy Grail, right? Well, Cannon is the unflappable Black Knight. Even if you chop off his arms, he counters with, “It’s just a flesh wound!”
Anyway, with all that money not coming into WMSA, Cannon (who says he had to lay off longtime executive director Jocelyn Perriera), has had to make some cuts. Apparently, that includes lease payments on their old Wailuku office, which surprised Jonathan Starr, the former WMSA Board member who owns the building they were renting.
“They have a lease that runs for a while, until next January,” Starr said. “They said they can unilaterally cancel a lease. It’s unusual–I’ve never had a tenant say that they can cancel a lease without permission from the landlord.”
Starr said their reason for bailing was simple: Because Starr and his wife Helen Nielsen “outwardly and publicly demonized” and “publicly defamed the honorable reputation” of the WMSA in both Maui County Council hearings and in a letter to The Maui News, they–and not the WMSA–negated the lease.
“It’s kinda peculiar,” Starr said. Cannon did not respond to a request for comment by press time.