There will be only minor changes to Hawaii County’s tsunami evacuation map when the first new version in almost two decades is published later this year.
Hawaii County is in the midst of tweaking its maps based on a new University of Hawaii study that evaluated the past five tsunami events and used modeling to predict actions of hypothetical tsunami events. The statewide tsunami inundation zone mapping project, which was paid for by a $600,000 federal grant, was conducted by Kwok Fai Cheung of the Ocean and Resources Engineering Department at UH-Manoa.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency, along with department heads and top administrators from county government, attended a briefing about the inundation maps earlier this month, where Cheung provided an overview of his modeling and addressed changes in his predictions, according to a Sept. 30 memo from Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira.
Oliveira said the only significant change to the map will be bringing the evacuation area further up along the Wailuku River along Shipman Street in Hilo.
“Overall, the maps seem to be current and clear,” Oliveira said. “For the most part, the evacuation zones are the same.”
In addition, he said, the maps, to be published in the next editions of telephone books, will clarify the evacuation zones between Kawaihae Harbor and Kohala Ranch Road. That part of the West Hawaii coastline was omitted in recent telephone books, he said.
“That’s a gap that’s been identified,” where maps continue from one page to the next, Oliveira said. “We haven’t forgotten about them.”
In addition to inside the telephone book, tsunami evacuation maps are posted at the county Civil Defense website, records.co.hawaii.hi.us/Weblink8/Browse.aspx?start id=24604&dbid=1. A mapping tool is available at the state Civil Defense site, scd.hawaii.gov.
Hawaii County’s new evacuation maps are currently being reviewed by Hawaii County police and fire agencies, Oliveira said. Once they are finalized, they will be published, probably in another month.
While several recent tsunami warnings resulted in no real emergency, officials urge the public to stay informed about evacuation zones and what to do when a siren sounds. When there’s a tsunami warning, the public should evacuate low-lying coastal areas and not return until Civil Defense has issued an all-clear for people to return to their homes.
State Civil Defense officials refused to release the inundation maps when requested by West Hawaii Today, saying the inundation maps would only confuse the public. The agency wants the public to focus on the evacuation maps, not the inundation maps, said state Civil Defense spokeswoman Shelly Kunishite.
West Hawaii Today has submitted a formal public records request for the inundation maps to give the state agency the opportunity to cite which portion of the law allows the maps to be exempted from the state Uniform Information Practices Act.