Garden Home couple caught in Hawaiian 'missile' scare
When it gets cloudy and cold in the Portland area, Garden Home residents Dave and Kim Wisniewski often head to Hawaii to catch some sunshine and relaxation.
This last weekend, their vacation also included a dire warning of an incoming missile attack.
For close to an hour on Saturday, people in Hawaii believed that a ballistic missile was inbound — possibly from North Korea. The warning went out in error, thanks to a state worker who hit a wrong button. State officials rescinded the warning about 40 minutes later.
The Wisniewskis were there. Their home is near Tigard and Dave Wisniewski works in Sherwood.
Their vacation — their seventh trip to Hawaii — began on Tuesday, Jan. 9. Dave Wisniewski said he and his wife, and another couple from Seattle, were out for an early morning walk in Kona, Hawaii, when they noticed people dashing into the garage of a home near their rental house. It was about 8 a.m., Wisniewski said.
"We thought: That was weird."
Shortly after, a mother and daughter drove by, stopped to ask why the vacationers weren't moving faster, and showed them the text message on their phone:
BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."
At that point, the alert already was 24 minutes old; if the missile had been real, it would have been 24 minutes closer to detonation.
"When she said there'd been a warning, we figured it was a tsunami," Wisniewski said. "Nope. It was a ballistic missile."
The driver offered to take the vacationers up into the hills to seek shelter. They declined, heading back to their rental house.
"We said, OK, so what do we do?"
They didn't know where Hawaii's fallout shelters were located. They discussed the possibility of jumping into the pool at the rental, since water can block radiation.
They watched cars speed through the residential neighborhood at around 60 mph, as residents sought shelter.
The vacations decided to just stay put. "Some people reacted differently. We're in our mid-50s and on vacation. What can we do about it?" Wisniewski asked. "Not much."
About 20 minutes later, while scanning Twitter, they saw the warning rescinded.
"It was a funny way to end a vacation," Wisniewski said.
The couple they were with own a T-shirt shop in the Seattle area. "If nothing else," Wisniewski said, "we told them they should make a T-shirt that reads, 'I Survived the Ballistic Missile Attack on Hawaii.'"