Travel still safe to Hawaii and U.S. West coast

Despite fears over effects of the recent Japanese nuclear power plant disaster, authorities pronounced travel still safe to Hawaii and the U.S. west coast. Stories of a giant cloud of nuclear waste on the way to cripple the United States and an e-mail predicting acid rain turned out to be a hoax. It is almost business-as-usual for travelers, with a few exceptions to be aware of.

“We get a lot of calls from people about possible dangers,” Cathy Brooks of CruiseOne told “We try to assure them it’s safe to travel.”

The U.S Department of State advised U.S. citizens within 50 miles of the plant in Japan to evacuate the area or to take shelter indoors, if safe evacuation was not practical. The U.S. Government also made available potassium iodide (KI) pills as a precautionary measure for American personnel and dependents residing in Japan at the time of the incident.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Times reported that a small amount of radiation was headed for California but that health risks were not a concern. To help Americans understand their radiation-related health risks, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), the American Thyroid Association (ATA), The Endocrine Society and the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) issued a joint statement which noted that “current estimates indicate there will not be a hazardous level of radiation reaching the United States from this accident” and added “there is not a radiation emergency in the United States or its territories”.

Indeed, nuclear authorities gave the U.S. West coast and Hawaii a clean bill of health, clearing away the concerns of travelers.

“I want to reassure residents and visitors that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the highest authority on radiation in the nation, has indicated Japan’s nuclear emergency presents no danger to Hawaii.” Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie told the Hawaii Reporter.

That’s not to say everything is operating normally in Hawaii though. Several resorts and tourist destinations were damaged by the tsunami event but most are open.

Two resorts that remain closed are Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, which plans to reopen on April 30, and iconic Kona Village Resort which will remain closed for an extended period of time due to the significant structural and property damage it sustained

Kailua Pier was deemed structurally sound after the event, and all charters are operating as usual. Norwegian Cruise Lines Pride of America, the year-round cruise ship servicing Hawaii, stopped in Kona last week as planned.

King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel is also open, and guest rooms were not damaged. However, the lu’au area, ground floor public areas including the lobby and Kona Beach Restaurant, were flooded by seawater, sand and debris. Cleanup efforts are well underway, and several retail stores have reopened.

“Our state and county monitoring systems have not detected any increase in radiation levels, and based on all available information, state and federal experts do not anticipate any risk of harmful radiation exposure to our islands. We are open for business. Hawai’i continues to be the world’s paradise.” added Governor Abercrombie.

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Flickr photo by Merfarm