Hawaii Earthquake 'Felt Like a Jackhammer'

Oct. 15, 2006 — -- Longtime residents of Hawaii say the earthquake that jolted them out of bed just after 7 a.m. local time was perhaps the biggest they've ever felt.

"It's a Sunday morning, so many of us were in bed, and it literally shook us out of the bed," Maggie Wunsch of Honolulu told ABC News Radio.

"It went on for about a minute; it kept going and going and going and going," said Terry, a dispatcher at Volcanoes National Park on the "big island" of Hawaii. "It was rolling and rolling. But it was the duration that was so dynamic about this earthquake. It just didn't seem to stop."

Melanie, who works at the Bamboo Orchid Cottage in Volcano, Hawaii, said the quake sounded like "a semi truck coming right through your house."

"Came downstairs to make some coffee," she said. "And all of a sudden, it felt like a jackhammer goin' through the house. And everything started swaying."

The quake, which had preliminary readings between 6.3 and 6.6 magnitude, was believed centered just off the Kona coast on the west side of the big island, and struck as heavy rain fell in parts of the state. It was followed by numerous aftershocks.

Geophysicist Gerard Fryer, at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center on the island of Oahu, was impressed.

"This is a pretty big event," Fryer said. "In fact, this is the largest event in the Hawaiian Islands since 1983. … Basically, the earth creaked and groaned underneath the weight of the Hawaiian Islands.

"It was felt everywhere from the big island to Kauai and did significant damage on the big island," Fryer added. "Fortunately, it generated only a very small tsunami."

Faye Mitchell, a 31-year-old mother of two who lives in the Kohala district town of Hawi, the northernmost town on the big island, said the earthquake packed enough of a jolt to bring down the historic Old Hawi Mill 100 yards from her house.

"We were in our home when the quake hit," she wrote in an e-mail. "In our home, all the food came out of the cupboards and glasses, bottles, vases and mirrors fell to the ground during this quake as it got stronger and stronger in the period of about 30 seconds.

"Our neighbor wasn't as lucky," Mitchell added. "She lost every plate and glass in her home and cannot close her front door due to the slant in her home's structure."

Dennis Schwarz, who lives on the big island's north coast, told ABC News his house was swaying so much that he bolted outside after first seeking refuge in a doorway.

"Definitely a lot stronger than anything I've ever felt since I've lived here, 37 years," he said. "I've never experienced anything like that. It was a lot of swaying. … The house felt like it was swaying and rocking.

"I've talked to a friend in Kona," he said, shortly after the quake struck. "Their power's out completely, or at least where she is. Ours was out for about an hour. Cell phones are down."

Terry, the park dispatcher, seemed to think he'd remember this quake, too.

"Usually, we'll have a nice little earthquake and it's over with," he said. "But this one, this is significant. … I can tell you it was felt through all of our parks throughout the state."

As Mitchell drove around her part of the big island, she saw the extent of the damage.

"I drove down the road to Takata's store where the store owners were in tears over the damage done there," she wrote. "Part of the ceiling fell, aisles [were] impassible due to all the goods piled in them and a vile smell of vinegar and wine was almost unbearable. Down at the local hospital residents were evacuated to a lawn area where they were receiving makeshift care.

"Now when we look out at our beautiful coast," she added, "the water is a murky brown from many dirt cliff sides crumbling into the sea."

Wunsch said that in the aftermath of the earthquake, Honolulu was different, too.

"There's no electricity, no traffic lights," she said. "They've told everybody to stay off the road. And so what you're really hearing is mostly nature, birds and watching the rain."

ABC News Radio and ABC News' Michael S. James contributed to this report.

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