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Martinez couple stuck in Hawaii hotel room overnight

News 12 First at Five // Friday, March 11, 2011

WAIKIKI BEACH, HAWAII -- A Martinez couple is having quite a vacation this week. They spent most of the day stuck on the seventeenth floor of their Hawaiian hotel. Everyone in the hotel was evacuated to the highest levels of the building and then told to stay in their rooms. From that point on, Preston and Christine Sparks could only wait for the aftermath of the tsunami to hit their island.

The Sparks thought about spending their third anniversary at Hilton Head Island or Myrtle Beach, but at the last minute decided to head to Hawaii. Little did they know their trip would start with a tour of Pearl Harbor....and end with a tsnuami.

Preston and Christine were eating dinner on Waikiki beach last night when they first got word of the earthquake in Japan. "We were eating and then the waitress walked up and says, 'We're gonna have to close early, just wanted to let you know, because of the tsunami warning they just issued!' I thought, this can't be real. You've got to be kidding! That's what I'm thinking."

They quickly realized the evacuation was no joke. Preston's pictures show police cruisers lined up outside their hotel, directing people to either leave the island of seek high shelter. The Sparks were told to stay in their 17th floor room, high enough to be safe even if the waves were severe. "We were hearing sirens outside and the police would come on a big speaker every now and then and tell people to get to higher ground or to higher levels of the hotel."

He took another picture of their TV screen they watched the local news count down to the power shutting off, a precautionary measure. Hotel staff also told them to fill up their bathtub in case the water was turned off. "I guess the scariest part," he explains, "Was when we started seeing the water go back and you could start seeing the bottom of the ocean! Then I started thinking, uh-oh, okay, here it comes."

Boats were moved farther out to sea where the water was calmer. The tsunami's waves came and went, some as high as six feet. Several ports have reported damage but fortunately no major devastation.

While on the phone with News 12, Preston and Christine finally got some good news, "While I'm talking to you I actaully think I saw something flicker....ah-ha! We have power now! The power just got restored thank goodness. That's another good sign; that feels really good!"

Preston explains it was definitely not the vacation they were expecting-- but one they'll certainly never forget. They both promise they're doing well other than being tired. The visit the Sparks had planned to the big island Friday was resecheduled until Satuday, so they hope to still enjoy the last two days of vacation. They're supposed to head home sunday, assuming all flights at the airport are running smoothly by then.

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