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Vacationing SR reporter evacuated in Maui

Fri., March 11, 2011, 11:31 a.m.

Spokesman-Review reporter Rebecca Nappi spent the night in a rented van with family members early Friday after being evacuated Thursday night from the South Maui condominium where the family was staying.

A moderate tsunami wave hit the Hawaiian coast in the early morning hours following a devastating earthquake in Japan.

“It was really freaky,” she said of the experience.

The evacuation notice came by telephone about 10:30 p.m. to Nappi and seven other members of her family who are on a week-long vacation at Wailea.

They had about two hours to leave the condominium, she said, so they grabbed their airline tickets and other personal possessions before loading into two vans that they rented on arrival to Maui earlier this week.

Initially, they parked in a lot at a shopping center on higher ground of the volcanic island, and then moved to an event facility at an even higher elevation midway through the night.

They were allowed to return to the condo at 6:30 a.m.

Nappi said she was never frightened, but found herself switching to her professional persona of being a reporter and asking questions of the local residents.

Local radio broadcasts offered almost no information through the early-morning hours, so Nappi turned to her mobile phone to obtain text messages from relatives in the eastern U.S.

“Luckily, we were fine,” she said after getting two hours of sleep in her bed this morning.

Curiously, life on the beach seemed to return to normal quickly this morning. A crew was mowing the lawn at the condo, she said.

The beach looked as if it had been washed, and a lot of debris was gathered at the high point of the waves. A swimming pool just above the beach was not touched.

South Maui is somewhat protected from weather and waves since it is tucked behind the touristy West Maui portion of the island. Wailea is known for its golf courses, located there because northeast trade winds are weakest in that vicinity.

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