Tsunami Clock of Doom
Hilo, Big Island, Hawaii
The residents of Hilo learned a hard lesson about the downside of their picturesque Hilo Bay, but it took two killer tsunamis. The first, in 1946 and before any coordinated warning system, surged up the bay one morning, sending residents fleeing up Hilo's sloping downtown streets. It killed 96 people and destroyed huge swaths of neighborhoods and businesses.
A public clock survived that disaster, only to succumb to another tsunami that struck with awful effect in the middle of the night on May 23, 1960. The clock was a centerpiece of Waiakea Town, a predominantly Japanese community built on the low peninsula poking out into Hilo Bay.
That neighborhood, along with part of the business district, was destroyed by a series of eight waves emanating from an undersea earthquake near South America, with a magnitude between 8.25 and 8.5. Residents had warning, but some stayed -- there had been false alarms before, and the Waiakea area hadn't been as badly hit in 1946. But when the seismic sea waves arrived that night, some were as high as 35 feet, and ultimately destroyed or wrecked over 500 buildings. 61 residents died.
Recovering after the 1960 tsunami, the town banned residential rebuilding in the twice afflicted areas, turning much of the land into public parks.
The clock, on its green metal pole, is now a memorial, standing along a busy thoroughfare in one of the areas of devastation, in front of a golf course. A 20-ft. high wave hit here. The clock's hands are frozen at that moment: 1:04 am.