Tsunami concerns Hardin County residents

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Disaster in Japan has personal impact

By Amber Coulter

The tsunami that struck Japan and then diminished in force as it struck Hawaii and the coast of California has caused some concern among local families and officials.

Others are relieved that nothing happened to their loved ones.
Mayor Tim Walker said on Friday afternoon that officials have been trying to contact Elizabethtown’s sister city in Japan, Koori-Machi, to see how much the city was impacted by the tsunami.

Officials also are trying to get in touch with contacts from Akebono in Japan, the parent company of the Elizabethtown company. Some of the Akebono associates in Elizabethtown have family members in Japan whom they are trying to reach, Walker said.

The city is within 20 miles of the ocean and within an hour of Sendai, the city that was hardest hit by the 8.9 earthquake and tsunami, said Fran Arnold of Elizabethtown.

Arnold, whose family has visited the sister city, said it is also within the Fukushima Prefecture, where an unstable nuclear reactor is located.

Other locals have better news.

Sarah Shelton, an Elizabethtown High School graduate, and her husband, Travis, were watching “American Idol” in their Hawaii home when word of the tsunami came to them.

Travis, who was stationed in Hawaii with the Marines, got a text message from a friend telling him and his wife to pack up their puppy and needed belongings.

They then followed military police orders for an evacuation to higher ground.

Sarah Shelton called her father, Charles Behringer of Sonora, at about 3 a.m. EST telling him about the coming tsunami.

Behringer said he had no idea what had been going on until his daughter’s call woke him up and he turned on the news.

“I told her to calm down because they were on a military base, and I was sure they were evacuating,” he said. “I told her to move the important stuff to the second floor, and she said she didn’t have time.”

He said he stayed calm and told his daughter everything would be OK and that the news wasn’t making the situation sound too dangerous. He told her to call him if she needed anything.

“Like I can do anything from 2,000 miles away,” he said.

He called her four hours later to make sure she had made it to safety.
Sarah Shelton said things turned out fine. She and her husband followed a long line of cars up Pali Highway to higher ground. They parked at about 12:30 a.m. HAST and then went to stay with a friend, Elizabethtown High School graduate Kaila Carroll, who lives in a high-ground home in Hawaii.

Sarah Shelton said couldn’t get any sleep that night because of all the calls that came from friends and family, but she, her husband, her puppy and her home all came out of the situation unharmed.

The strangest part was the automatic return to normalcy on Friday, she said.

She even had to shake off her lack of sleep to go to work as a dental assistant that day.

“It’s weird because it’s beautiful weather right now, and all last week there were grey skies and rain and storms,” she said Friday.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.