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Archive for the ‘tsunami’ Category

Sirens blastin’. Shorelines evacuating. Iceheads scrambling. Drunks kickin’ it at the bars. Tourists being… tourists. My boyfriend making pasta.

Our perfect storm is: the current advisory level 15 foot surf, a pushing high+ tide, and tsunami all on approach.

We prepare for the worst, and hope for the best of course. Indo and Japan left lasting impressions on our Ring of Fire psyche. Most of the time, these tsunami warnings lead us to staring at a barely rising shoreline. #Failnami

Still, the last manini tsunami swell that hit Hawai’i from the Japan quake didn’t look like much when it arrived (a few feet), yet caused millions in damage at the harbors. This is forecast to be larger but it all depends on where and what angle it hits (looks like Maui may get the brunt; while Honolulu traffic may be the real nightmare).

Yup, Hawai’i is easily the most prepared state in terms of  tsunami drills, with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center operating on the ‘better safe then sorry’ motto (perhaps partly inspired by a lack of funding to release new buoys / repair broken buoys). For the record, I prefer being prepared for the just in case.

The DART tsunami warning system, which often gets less than stellar reviews, received the message something was a’brewin (but with a lack of data it supposedly took a while for them to call the tsunami due to confusion over the epicenter. I’m guessing we will likely get more details of this in the days to come). 

Basically the DART system reads the seismic waves, which travel around 11,000km/hr as well as the tsunami waves, which travel at 800km/hr.

Note the red mark indicated the moment that sparked the buoy event. The Hawai’i buoy went off within approximately 30 minutes of Alaska.

Station 46410 South Cordova, AK

Station 51407 Kailua-Kona, HI

Wait, back to surfing…. One thing surfers are going to bed concerned about is whether this will effect their morning session (call us focused). The early winter advisory swell in effect at present is going to be quite enticing. Keep in mind: The last few tsunamis did bring in interesting deep water creatures (including a Great White). Yeah, that’s a random tidbit. But seriously, if you do paddle out after a tsunami, check that the advisory or warning has passed and be conscious of the continuing surges that create strong currents and rips, which often last for days after the event. Be safe!

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The March 11th tsunami nearly destroyed the coastal city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture, North East Japan. In addition to 10% of the population and 80% of businesses, the disaster claimed 70,000 pine trees. The ones that weren’t initially taken out by the tsunami eventually died from the salt concentration that remained in the soil once the waters receded.

Salt water, used by smart people to kill weeds, is not a plus when it comes to plants you want to grow. In an article about the impact of tsunamis and salt water on agricultural land, Food and Agricultural Field Guide writes:

When salt concentrations in the soil are high, the movement of water from the soil to the root is slowed down. When the salt concentrations in the soil are higher than inside the root cells, the soil will draw water from the root, and the plant will wilt and die… The damaging effects of salt on plants are caused not only by osmotic forces, but also by toxic levels of sodium and chloride. Fruit crops and woody ornamentals are especially sensitive to high levels of these elements. Also, the high pH value (a measure of the acid/alkaline balance) caused by excess sodium may result in micronutrient deficiencies.

Had the trees been inundated with clean/rain water immediately after the tsunami hit, they might have been saved (perhaps eventually taking up the radionuclides and becoming a red forest a la the pines in Chernobyl). But since the ground also sank, the area essentially became a bed of seawater. All the trees in that forest died, except one, which became a symbol of survival known as “Kiseki no Ipponmatsu”, “The Lone Pine”, “The Tree of Hope” or “The Miracle Tree”.

The community did all they could to help the 270 year old tree, and though it didn’t look promising, early this spring there was restored optimism when new leaf growth was seen at the top of the pine. Unfortunately, in May they announced the tree was indeed dead and this July, they announced funds were being raised to “preserve it”.

Sounds like a nice idea, until you consider the price tag: ¥150 million ($U.S. 1.9 million) to cut down the tree, treat it with preservatives, insert a metal core and return it to the place it now stands. They even have a Facebook fundraising page to reach possible contributors around the world. By the end of July, about $50,000 had been raised, including money from the fiscally-challenged city’s budget.

Futoshi Toba, Mayor of Rikuzentakata, posted on his Facebook page:

This tree that has given us so much hope can no longer stand on its own, but we want to leave it as a symbol as we work towards recovery.


Preserving a dead tree as a symbol of hope… do we need to point out the irony? Is it a waste of breath to suggest that the money could be better spent on bringing tangible – as opposed to symbolic – hope to the survivors, particularly the children in Fukushima? 

We are all for the idea of anything uplifting the people of Japan but in this case, it seems more like an extension of the cover-up. Another deterrent to facing the reality of the situation; something governments and agencies do despite the needs or desires of the people they represent.

So, we came up with some more economical alternatives for the tree’s restoration. Perhaps the money saved could be used towards entombing the still leaking reactors, rebuilding the town or, better yet, helping relocate residents who live within 200 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

STILL RIDICULOUS BUT POTENTIALLY LESS COSTLY OPTIONS FOR THE DEAD MIRACLE TREE (by Kerin & Darby):

  • Get Christo to artistically interpret the lone pine with a backdrop recreating the thousands of dead pines a la his scene-scapes utilizing umbrellas, windmills, bolts of fabric….
  • Hire David Copperfield to make the tree appear and disappear. It would truly make a statement, that this is all just an illusion. They can make it an annual show and charge tourists for admission (since most residents don’t seem to have extra mad money lying around for dead tree expenditures).
  • Make a hologram of the pine like the Coachella 2Pac. Supposedly, that only cost a few hundred thousand dollars. In order to run it more cheaply and efficiently, you’d obviously use solar – not nuclear – power.
  • Shellac the tree. It’ll still rot inside, but it could be a symbol of the reactors as well, like the cosmetic “circus” tents they put up over Reactor 1; temporary cover-up, as the decay – and radioactive releases – continues. Or as someone commented “Just a sheet over a dead body… in the morgue called Fukushima.” Apparently something that actually blocked radiation was deemed too costly by TEPCO (secretly these actually pull radionuclides out a chimney and higher into air, away from plant). No, TEPCO has no FB fundraising page, but with the estimated cost of Fukushima being $10 trillion – 10 years worth of Japan’s national budget – that country will certainly need a Kickstarter. 
  • Build a wax fountain around the tree. (Kerin’s dad can provide you with specs/details upon request.)
  • Voodoo resurrection spell. This would potentially bring the symbolic tree, and all dead trees in the area, back to life. Unfortunately we run the risk they could resurrect as zombie trees (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Forever”).
  • Create a psychedelic forest of H.R. Pufnstuf trees. They could inspire through song and dance (maybe combine with the voodoo resurrection and bring back Artful Dodger Jack Wild, which will certainly generate huge fan contributions towards the project).
  • Send in Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, to speak with the pine and get its point of view on the situation.
  • Make the tree bionic, as well as tsunami-proof. It can also fight Godzilla, stop earthquakes with it’s gynormous roots, double as an amusement park ride and suck up ionizing radiation from the atmosphere.
  • Have scientists clone it. They can’t get enough of that shit.
  • Incorporate the tree into the Space Elevator. That way, you can share a certain portion of the expenditures.
  • Post a petition to G-d. With social networking comes the unlimited online petitions. But have you ever signed a petition to G-d? If 1 million people sign the petition, G-d will be forced to resurrect the tree or suffer the wrath of internet activists.

In the end, perhaps we need to listen to those with a little more wisdom? From the Asia Sentinel:

[An] elderly woman who declined to be named suggested that the tree has served its purpose, and that it was time to move forward. ‘The lone pine tree has already been impressed on our minds, so I think it has fulfilled its role’.

Indeed. And wouldn’t it be a nice change of pace if logic played a role in the ongoing recovery efforts as well? Otherwise, our list may start sounding just as realistic as what the corporate / government maniacs have been proposing as solutions since 311.

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Diatribe for a Post-311 Generation: The Frying Dutchman‘s humanERROR*

How far have we strayed as humans to satisfy a quest for power, technology, and a seemingly advanced (still surprisingly subservient) society – and has it been worth it? Or better yet, will our children’s children’s children think it was worth it?

There are pros and cons regarding all alternative power, but the least we can hope for is supporting people’s needs with viable options that include the least amount of inherent risks (to organisms and environment). And is it too much to expect that geology play a part of the decision-making process? Considering the seismic activity, tsunamis, typhoons, freezing temperatures, unstable soil, potential volcanic eruptions, and high population density, is the Japanese archipelago quite possibly the worst setting for 54 nuclear plants?

For over a decade before 311, warnings about the potential perfect storm scenario for nuclear disaster in Japan went unheeded. This included admonitions from nuclear whistleblowers, geoscientists, and seismologists like Professor Ishibashi, who compared the nuclear situation in Japan to a “kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode”. Even if Japan decides to reestablish pre-Fukushima levels of atomic power, within 20 years they may be forced to shut it all down due to their inability to deal with the overwhelming accumulation of radioactive waste. The persistent technological problems of Japan’s “too little, too late” Rokkasho nuclear storage facility – scheduled to open 15 years ago – plans to start up October 2012 and some are predicting it has an 80-90 percent chance of failure.

Even today, when the problems with Japan nuclear are touched upon by the media, they discuss Fukushima Daiichi, and rarely the fact that all but two of its reactors are still offline (many due to maintenance and “stress-tests” though some are still having functional issues.) What are these stress-tests anyway? Computer simulated models that, if passed, earn a blessing by the IAEA to restart the plant.

But wait, weren’t Japan’s power plants built to withstand earthquakes? One could imagine, since TEPCO has repeatedly denied that the earthquake had anything to do with the meltdowns, updated seismic retrofitting might not be part of the plan for any of the remaining nuclear plants. Eyewitness accounts of damage in the reactor buildings during the quake doesn’t seem relevant to plant officials. And TEPCO likely isn’t promoting the recent BBC documentary “This World Inside the Meltdown“, in which a worker discuss how the pipes were “ripping off the walls” before the waves hit. The film is required viewing btw; a day-by-day account with stories from plant workers / emergency workers / heros, residents… including how close to evacuation Fukushima Daiichi actually was. And yes, employees are not allowed to speak to the media.

Regardless of whether the reactors withstood the quake, the incoming wave doused the generators that were strategically stored in the basement, ensuring a lack of necessary power to pump water through the pipes into the reactor (that alone wouldn’t have mattered either, since the inadequately secured back-up ocean pumps were destroyed anyway). As well the lack of power delayed their ability to vent the reactors immediately after they saw the pressure building, which TEPCO surmises would have staved off the hydrogen/nuclear explosion (though you may opt to believe nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen‘s hypothesis on the Mark 1 reactor flaw and why the venting wouldn’t have made a difference).

Fact is, the reactors damaged in the disaster would have passed these same “stress tests” a week before Fukushima. And today, the many plants lined up across the shores poised for their potential worst-case-scenario will very likely pass them now. Are these stress tests based on faulty criteria? There are a few eyes on nuclear “watchdogs” NISA and IAEA, and they are already getting blasted for using the same standards post-311:

Reports on stress tests on 14 reactors have been submitted to Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. None of the tests covers a scenario involving multiple natural disasters and they were carried out even though the causes of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi meltdowns and hydrogen explosions are still being investigated”, said Masashi Goto, a former reactor designer who also serves on the committee.“The tests are nothing but an optimistic desk simulation based on the assumption that everything will happen exactly as assumed,” Goto said, adding that they don’t include margins for human error, design flaws or combinations of both. …”NISA has no plans to change the way the reviews are being conducted”, Tatsuya Taguchi, a NISA official in charge of nuclear safety regulatory standards, said by phone today. (BusinessWeek; Jan. 27, 2012)

Last July, before stepping down, Japan’s Prime Minister Kan had pledged a “revolutionary energy shift”, though today it seems the power companies and pro-nuclear officials are simply biding time before getting all of Japan’s nuclear back online. Perhaps they’ve been waiting for more advanced stages of collective amnesia to kick in; supported by financial necessity and stressing this summer’s energy demands. Threats by huge manufacturers and nuclear construction companies were not taken lightly either. It’s little wonder these same companies who built the reactors won the bids for the decon work throughout Japan – make some spare billions while this whole nuclear plant thingy gets cleared up. It is unfortunate that these corporations have no expertise in radiation clean-up, but no worries, it’s only the lowly hired help, not the executives, who are going to suffer for that. Nuclear industry critic Kiyoshi Sakurai said it best:

Decontamination is becoming big business. The construction companies are being paid to clean up the mess resulting from their own products. …the Japanese nuclear industry is run so that the more you fail, the more money you receive.

While Kan called for Japan to abandon nuclear, the new PM Noda was less specific during his first official speech, which occurred a day after 30,000 citizens attended an anti-nuke rally in Tokyo. Today though he’s quite clear, “all plants offline since March 11th should be restarted”. Despite new polls showing 66% of Japan wanting to phase out nuclear, we will likely see, one by one, plants run through the “stress tests” being turned back on, beginning in areas with the least public and mayoral opposition.

But the issue not being confronted remains the same: Are these reactors safe? Can we surmise that in less than a year they were able to do adequate retrofitting (9.0+ quakes) at all the plants? Build massive tsunami barricades? Have generators and switch boards stationed outside of potential tsunami flood zones? Create additional secure back-up power systems that would last at least a few days? Upgrade safety-related cooling pumps? Hire competent management with a nuclear engineering background? Start the decommissioning of all Mark 1 reactors? ;) Provide adequate emergency contingencies – including immediate SPEEDi and radioactive fallout data to residents with proper evacuation procedures based on meteorological conditions. And heck, throw in a law that would condemn any agency withholding or manipulating such information to everlasting shame while serving a (short) life sentence in the new nuclear work camp aka Fukushima? And while they’re at it, require a 1/4 of a trillion insurance policy for every nuclear plant, as that is an estimate of what 25 years of clean-up will cost.

TEPCO says Fukushima will take 40 years of man-power (utilizing new technologies/robots that do not yet exist) to decommission the plant. It will take supposedly 10 years to remove the spent fuel rods and melted fuel (which is… well, who knows exactly where all the fuel is). The situation there will continue its precarious existence probably throughout our lifetime. And since they won’t allow any outside forces to assist, we need to count on officials at TEPCO, and the government, to make the right decisions. If the temperature fluctuations and steam releases in the past month alone are any sign, we might as well explain away “cold shutdown” as not very cold, stable, or shut down. Nuclear plants remain, scattered across Japan, sitting on fault lines, in danger zones, storing massive amounts of radioactive materials. The 311 anniversary is soon upon us, and the Perfect Storm scenario for Japan’s nuclear hasn’t changed, whether they turn these reactors back on or not.

Perhaps apathy via obedience doesn’t have to dominate Japanese culture, or more specifically Japanese youth. They are the ones who are going to experience the brunt of this situation by way of negative health effects and likely a huge increase in cancer rates, especially in females. But that kind of information is not discussed much in the Japanese media – in fact, the people are immersed in misinformation, and now the Education Ministry (which runs the Nuclear Safety Division, eh-hem) is issuing new text books for kids that promote nuclear and downplay radiation. These days, it takes a lot of guts for Japanese citizens to speak out, especially about the inherent dangers of external and internal exposure to radioactive particles currently spreading throughout Japan. So I appreciate The Frying Dutchman screaming it from the streets of Japan to the world. Maybe this disaster was the wake-up call… and this song a new anthem. Hopefully the Japanese people don’t sweep the radioactive dust under the rug and go back to business as usual. Hopefully 311 can inspire an intelligent transition to more responsible power options. And hopefully the youth of Japan seize the moment to use the tragedy to inspire a positive evolution.

Speaking of which… The Frying Dutchman are holding a HumanERROR One Million Person Parade for the anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, with get-togethers and events across Japan, March 10th / 11th, 2012. They will also play on March 11th at 1p.m. at the Tidanowa Festival in Okinawa. Watch live on Upstream. Click here to register.

* Mahalo mahalo mahalo to Paul R. Kotta and Minako Yoshino for the English translation of humanERROR. You can also read it at: Tokyo Progressive

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There’s been little news regarding what coastal communities should expect as the debris from the March 2011 tsunami starts showing up on the shores of Hawai’i. As it hits Midway and makes its way down the island chain, we can’t ignore the reality: It is coming. Considering how many people chose Hawai’i as their vacation destination; how many billionaires chose it as their home (or second or third home); and that our current President is from Hawai’i, one might imagine that more action would be taken to prevent the trash from dirtying our shorelines in the first place. Will it carry radioactive materials? Will it have diluted enough to not have a major impact? How will it effect our beaches? The marine life? Surfrider is bringing together experts in the field of marine biology, marine debris and ocean currents for this conference, which will take place at Kauai Community College cafeteria on Saturday, December 10th from 9am-12pm. Everyone who lives in or visits Hawai’i, everyone who cares about the environment and oceans, should either be at this event or watch it streaming at Livestream.com/surfriderkauai.

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We have a follow-up on the Chile tsunami potentially hitting Hawaii and the post-tsunami rumor mill. We’ll keep the info nicely tucked away in the “allegedly” category. For your consideration:

1) We have offshore buoy reports that accurately predict swells (size and direction) coming into Hawaiian waters. These are the buoys that give us our surf forecasts, and the forecasters who translate this information are amazingly accurate. So wouldn’t you think that these same buoys could give us the same information about a wave generated by a tsunami? On top of that there is tsunami detection equipment set not only on buoys but on the sea floor. NOAA satellite’s can measure the surface of the ocean to a millimeter, minute by minute, as well as sand build up under the water. So wouldn’t they be able to measure a 3-6 foot swell heading into Hawai’i, especially as the wave got closer? Sure there are degrees of variance, including how a tsunami may hit different areas on the island. But post event we now hear that many looking at the readings already knew the wave was going to safely pass Hawai’i. So why wasn’t the tsunami called an “advisory” (which would have better fit their criteria) instead of a warning”, at least as it made its way closer and it became more undeniable?

2) The alarms went off at 6am and instead of authorities saying, Get your ass out of town by 11:00, what was repeatedly stated is, you have plenty of time, don’t rush, don’t hurry. Sure, in the best of worlds keeping people calm and collected in the face of challenges is a wonderful accomplishment (especially with Hawai’i’s quickly congested 1-2 lane roads), but one would assume more fervent evacuations might have been conducted. Though many evacuations took place, some who reside in shoreline areas commented that it felt a little off that with such a definite forecast of a tsunami warning there wasn’t a greater sense of imminent danger.

A possible conclusion:  If the government agency in charge of emergency response chose to – instead of calling off the warning – use the situation as a tsunami drill… then the drill was well performed and a success. Fact is, it’d be darn near impossible to make a true-to-life mock tsunami drill, so it was a great opportunity. In the end of course, it’s always better to err on caution (unless you’re Chicken Little). And as far as economic stimulation (well, at least for Foodland and the news shows/sites) – check!

Anyway, you decide.

p.s. You think I can return all these supa-sized Crystal Geyser waters?

p.p.s. Btw, the info about the tsunami readings, that it was known early on that Hawai’i was in no danger, was confirmed by an anonymous higher-up in the military with a little lot more insider info than us surf rats.

*   *   *

March 1, 2010: Today the news explained away the tsunami warning stating that the readings for the tsunami were 50% higher than they should have been. That no tsunami warning for Hawai’i should have even been made. So why was it? Officials blamed it on unexperienced workers who couldn’t read the new equipment correctly.

They didn’t mention when this fug-up was actually realized, but it does mean we’re supposed to believe that they based this huge tsunami warning on a few incompetent workers. Regardless, as it made its way towards Hawaiian waters (where we have the most amazing surf forecasters, tsunami central for the Pacific, etc.), logic dictates that the true nature of this tsunami must have been realized well before the warning was finally called off after noon.

Again, you decide…..

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