Volcano Watch - Remembering and honoring one of Hilo's own - Reggie Okamura 1936 - 1999

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"Please do not let this rain dampen your spirits," Senator Daniel Inouye urged the gathering on a misty, breezy Volcano morning.

Reginald T. Okamura commorative relief plaque and boquet of flowers

Photos from August 26, 2002, Dedication of the Reginald T. Okamura Building. Left, A maile lei adorns the Reginald T. Okamura commorative bas relief plaque. A beautiful Hawaiian bouquet is seen below.

(Public domain.)

Family of Reginald T. Okamura

Family members, Ryan Ando, daughter Lori, wife Jane, son Dean Okamura, and Kathy Uyeda are standing in front of the commorative plaque. Granddaughter Journee Okamura is in front.

(Public domain.)

On Monday, August 26, 2002, over 250 family, friends, and former colleagues and associates came to the U. S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park to remember and honor the late Reginald T. Okamura, long-time HVO Chief of Operations and "voice of the volcano."

Over his 34-year career at HVO - from 1958 to 1992 - Reggie worked as a scientist and an administrator, becoming mentor and friend to many, if not most, of the HVO staff and visitors. Reggie Okamura and HVO became so closely identified with each other that it became unusual to talk about HVO without mention of Reggie in some connection.

The occasion on August 26 was to unveil a plaque - a bas relief sculpted by local artist Henry Bianchini - to formally mark the naming of the USGS's largest building in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park the Reginald T. Okamura Building. For this occasion, Andrea Alpine, Deputy Director of the USGS's Western Region which oversees HVO as part of the Volcano Hazards Team, Jim Martin, Superintendent of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawai'i County Mayor Harry Kim, U. S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, and HVO Scientist-in-Charge Don Swanson spoke to the crowd about Reggie's career and the need to continue to build on the programs and partnerships that were so important to him and HVO.

Deputy Director Alpine mentioned the USGS's interests and efforts toward establishing and fostering a diverse USGS workforce. For much of his HVO career, Reggie managed the USGS's Minority Participation in Earth Science Program at HVO, which brought as many as 6 or 8 ethnic minority students to work at HVO each summer. They were often students from Hilo. Even if they chose not to become geologists or volcanologists, they were at least exposed to technical careers and given opportunities to work alongside scientists and other technical specialists at HVO.

Don Swanson, Mayor Kim, and Superintendent Martin all stressed the critical need for collaboration and trust among partners in emergency and hazards management. They also drew anecdotes from their long associations with Reggie to illustrate how unique this man was.

Senator Inouye shared with the audience how the observatory office building that is now the Reginald T. Okamura Building - the section featuring the observation tower - came to be. During an after-hours visit to HVO in 1984, Reggie showed the Senator to the HVO computer room. It was housed in a lean-to, and the cover to the cesspool showed through a hole in its floor. Senator Inouye said that this was simply one example of Reggie's "unorthodox but effective approaches to making things happen."

Volcano Activity Update

Eruptive activity of Kilauea Volcano continued unabated at the Pu`u `O`o vent during the past week. Molten rock is accessible 20 to 30 minutes from the end of the Chain of Craters road. The National Park Service is allowing visitors to hike out and get up close to the active flows. At this time there are no ocean entries, but this condition can change quickly.

The eastern Boundary flow emanating from the "rootless" shields appears to have ended. The last weekly geophysical measurements over the tube did not positively detect lava flowing beneath the crusted surface.

Two earthquakes were reported felt during the week ending on August 29. A resident of Papa`aloa felt an earthquake at 3:10 p.m. on Sunday, August 25. The magnitude-2.3 earthquake was located 3 km (1.8 mi) southeast of Pa`auilo at a depth of 8 km (4.8 mi). Residents of Waiki`i, Waikoloa, Waimea/Kamuela, Honoka`a and Pa`auilo felt an earthquake at 9:32 p.m. on Monday, August 26. The magnitude-2.6 earthquake was located 5 km (3 mi) southeast of Waimea at a depth of 13.15 km (7.9 mi).