The Correa Family's Experience in the 1960 Tsunami
On May 22, 1960, an earthquake with 9.5 magnitude, the largest on record, shook Conception, Chile. A
Pacific-wide tsunami was generated. There was extensive damage to areas in Chile, Hawaii, and Japan
as the waves
the Pacific and wreaked havoc. The tsunami slammed into Hilo on May 23.
the third one, struck
at 1:04 am. With the 1960 tsunami anniversary imminent, this
a Waiakea family's
experience in both the 1946 and 1960 tsunamis.
Grace Correa Carter and Jimmy Correa
Grace Correa Carter and Jimmy Correa came from a large family of 8 boys and 9 girls. The Correa family lived a couple of blocks from Waiakea Kai School on what is now part of the golf course. Like nearly all Waiakea kids, the Correas frequented Coconut Island, swimming out and back. Jimmy and Grace also remember spending lots of good times at Waiakea Settlement playing sports, doing crafts, and dancing.
On April 1, 1946, Grace had a family of her own and lived in the house she grew up in. Her sister called her and said that a tsunami was coming and to evacuate. When they left, Grace noticed something about the waves sweeping inland. "I watched the waves and I was amazed," she said. "The waves picked that building, [then] went around, [then] picked another building. Some of the homes didn't get hit." Fortunately, the Correa home was spared. Meanwhile, Jimmy did not report to work that morning, as workers were warned away from the Iron Works. Jimmy lived inland at Waiakea House Lots. So the Correa family home escaped the 1946 disaster.
The 1960 tsunami was a different story. One of Grace's sons had been at Coconut Island with friends. The son came home and told his mom that the caretaker instructed everyone to get off the island because there was a tsunami coming. Grace spent the afternoon rounding up her boys and husband. They headed inland.
Jimmy was working in his truck for the county sewer department not far from the bay when the waves hit. To him it sounded like a hundred jet planes taking off. "When I turned around and looked at the power plant down in Waiakea Town... it was just like lightning sparks were flying. I got in the truck and I took off."
A few days later, Grace returned to the place where the Correa family home stood for so many years. "The waves took everything" she said. "I cried for a week." Soon after, the whole neighborhood was bulldozed, and the only way Grace and Jimmy could tell where their house had been was the lemon tree and the big old mango tree.
Amazingly, the mango tree actually saved the Kama family across the street. The fruit on that tree had always been sour, so it had been trimmed back, leaving only the trunk and two thick branches forming a "V". When the tsunami came, the Kama family jumped in their car at the last second. The waves swept them right up into that old mango tree, and they just sat there, helpless, watching houses float by and hearing the terrible crunching and crashing as buildings splintered.
The 1960 tsunami event was the last big one to strike the Waiakea area. The next one might not come for 100 years - or it might come tomorrow.