Warning system vital to Island State
Members of the Hawaii Wing know that living in paradise comes at a price – namely vulnerability to tsunamis and hurricanes. In 1949, a decade before statehood, wing members tested siren-equipped aircraft in order to provide emergency storm warning service to beach areas. Catastrophe was averted in 1957 when nine Cessnas took to the skies to broadcast a warning to residents that a tsunami was headed their way. Fortunately, that storm never hit.
The wing reacted quickly on Sept. 11, 1992, when Hurricane Iniki clobbered the islands. When the storm hit with winds in excess of 100 mph, electricity, communications and water systems were knocked out. Though a Civil Air Patrol plane and gliders were damaged, the wing still furnished aircraft to perform damage assessment and relief missions. Initially, CAP’s Kauai communication center remained the island’s only link to the outside world.
Tsunamis and hurricanes aren’t the only dangers that sometimes threaten Hawaiians, as the wing’s Lt. Col. Gerald Toyomaru and 1st Lt. Steve Christian learned in 1995. The pair was conducting tsunami warning training when Christian spotted a group of sharks about 50 feet from surfers near Castle Beach. Flying at 500 feet, Toyomaru and Christian’s plane made several passes before they succeeded in warning the surfers, who hurried away. The crew monitored the situation until the sharks returned to deeper waters.
— Russ Slater