So here I am, freshly back on the red-eye from a trip to California, trying to catch some sleep as dawn begins to light up the east, when the power goes out. The wind begins to blow. And then blow bigger. And bigger. And then, so suddenly that it sounds a collision between freight trains right outside my bedroom window, there’s this massive, shattering rumble and crash.
We stumble outside, and it’s dark and pouring rain and muddy, but there’s no missing this huge pile of debris in the side yard. A true OMG moment. We’re convinced that part of our roof has blown off. That’s my daughter Kate in the above image, moments later, just before we began frantically removing furniture from the room behind her. But then we realized that there was no way the roofing material could wind up on the other side of the palm tree. Indeed, the palm tree has prevented the debris from smashing against our house.
It’s our neighbor’s roof, blown off and deposited over the fence.
Out front, there’s a weird mass of twisted metal and vinyl. OMG gives way to WTF.
The above picture is neighbor kid Kaeo DePonte, who lives in the house in the background at left. The wreckage is a 12-foot trampoline that was in his yard, and it took off like a flying saucer — missing his fence entirely! — and flew across the street and impacted with our Norfolk pine. Note the broken branches in the yard. The pine tree, like the palm tree out back, prevented serious damage to our house.
I took the above two pictures with my iPhone and transmitted them to the newspaper’s City Desk, and they put them online, and they were widely reprinted around the world, because the notion of storm damage in Hawaii strikes editors as “news.” Whatever.
But what kind of storm was it?
Kate and I jumped in the car and began a street-by-street damage assessment, mapping the debris field, hoping to chart the progress. Pretty soon, a pattern emerged:
A large red dot is substantial damage, a smaller dot is lesser damage, no dots is no damage. This is only what we could see from the streets. It was clearly a path instead of general damage, so I suspected a tornado, although not a large one. The path is only a couple of houses wide.
The newspaper used our datapoints to create a generic storm-path map, but I think the above actually tells the story better. Whatevers.
Later on Friday, the National Weather Service confirmed that it was a tornado, beginning as a waterspout that slammed ashore in Lanikai, where damage was much more serious than in our neighborhood.
This morning, however, our steel-pipe mailbox post simply fell over, snapped at the base. Storm damage!