You can set your watch by it. At 11:45 am, on the first day of the month, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tests the Emergency Alert System across the state by sounding a very loud siren.
I say very loud, because if you're directly beneath one of their sirens, it's very loud. In my neighborhood, however, the nearest siren is some distance away, and I don't hear the alert when it sounds.
Designed to warn the public of possible events that could damage property or threaten life, the system has always been thought of as the tsunami warning alert. But the system can be used to warn of other possible dangers.
After warning messages hit cell phones across Hawaii and other places, stating emphatically that ballistic missile(s) were inbound to Hawaii in January of 2018 (which caused a lot of panic and chaos trying to sift through 38 minutes of terror for some, disbelief for others and indifference from some). Ultimately it was a false alarm, and no audible sirens were sounded, but the State decided to add an additional siren tone for use if missiles actually ever do head towards Hawaii. Those were tested for a few months, coming immediately after the traditional tsunami siren, but were eventually ceased.
But, we still get our tsunami siren, 11:45 am, each first day of the new month. It's sometimes accompanied by radio warnings about the test. Under real conditions, you'd be instructed on the radio to move to higher grounds.
If you feel an earthquake, hear the siren, or observe the ocean's waters quickly retreating and leaving the seafloor exposed, a tsunami is very possible and extremely dangerous.
Don't mess around. Move to higher ground. Don't be drowned.
Click below to hear what it sounded like when I was next to the downtown Hilo Post Office on November 1st, 2019. In my car, you can hear the siren fading away as I left the vicinity.
It used to happen more often, when I was still talking by phone with many friends on the mainland. Over time, we speak by phone less often, but once in a while, I still get asked when chatting in the evening, "What are those birds I hear in the background?"
Those birds are frogs. Charming to some (usually people who move here) and a bane to others (usually to those who grew up here without them), the Coqui frog (Eleutherodactylus coqui Thomas) arrived in potted plants from the Caribbean in 1988.
Jungles in Hawaii used to be relatively silent at night, that is, until the little frog with the big voice arrived. Registering at 90 decibels, male frogs can be ear piercing should they chirp next to your ear. Efforts to eradicate have largely failed and they have spread across Hawaii Island and to others, in density 3 times greater than in Puerto Rico where they came from.
Seems coqui like living in Hawaii. Who doesn't? Keeping the jungle and unnecessary plants back from your home helps. But, you can usually hear them even with windows closed. The get much quieter when outside air temperatures drop into the low 60's or lower. I imagine them shivering in their hidey-holes. And, they're not as prevalent in more arid areas of the islands.
Luckily (or unluckily if you're a light sleeper), they only chirp at night. For those of us who moved here after 1988, they add an authenticity to the sounds of the jungle. And for most of us, they become background notice we tune out.
If you aren't charmed by the nightly serenade of the coqui, you can always wear ear plugs. Or mount your own eradication program.
Take a listen below. I stood in a very jungly spot the other night and recorded the frogs at close range. You'll get the idea.
Jeff Calley is a Realtor® in East Hawaii, whose background also includes work and management in varied industries, such as travel and tourism, electrical contracting, health care, and on-air broadcast, producing and content management for radio stations in Seattle and Palm Springs. During a sabbatical he took in 2009, he drove (literally) around the USA before undertaking a full curriculum at Le Cordon Bleu, graduating with top honors at the end of the year. When he's not helping people realize their real estate goals, he keeps busy with website management for AlohaBoysProperties.com as well as other websites. And if there's enough time left over, he photographs and makes video content for real estate websites and Multiple Listing Services. He's presently working on acquiring his commercial drone pilot's license (though he finds it funny that his helicopter pilot's license doesn't qualify!)