WAIKOLOA, Hawaii – Frightened and unable to sleep in her posh, ocean-view hotel room after riding out the island's most recent earthquake, Doris Christianson crept out of bed and found a decidedly more down-market place to lay her head.
In a note to her husband, Bob, she wrote: "I'm in the car."
Christianson said she was still spooked from Sunday's 6.7-magnitude earthquake, the strongest temblor to hit the islands in more than two decades. Living in Arroyo Grande, Calif., the Christiansons are no strangers to earthquakes. But this one was different.
"It was so loud. So violent. I thought the whole hotel was going down," she said. "It just went on and on and on. I just thought, 'This is it."'
Aftershocks continued to rattle the region — including a magnitude 3.9 tremor early Tuesday — but for most tourists and residents in Hawaii, life was returning to normal as authorities restored electricity, cleared highways and found little major damage.
For the rest of the tourists and residents in Hawaii, life quickly returned to normal Monday as authorities restored electricity, cleared highways and found little major damage.
Tourists continued to arrive by the planeload, and most who were momentarily shaken by the quake saw no need to cut short vacations.
"As long as the airports are open, we're OK," said Dave Kenny of Ortonville, Mich., who was with his wife at Volcanoes National Park when the quake struck.
"We figured it was a show that Hawaii put on just for us," Kenny said.
State officials also moved to dispel ideas that Hawaii-bound tourists should change plans. "We are open for business," Gov. Linda Lingle said.
Even hard-hit Kona Community Hospital, that had to be evacuated after ceiling tiles fell, was declared structurally sound, said spokeswoman Emily Mendez-Bryant.
Thirty long-term care patients were taken to a hotel, and six were airlifted across the island to another hospital as a precaution. The patients were to be returned by the end of the week.
"God was on our side," said Donald Lewis, president and chief executive of the hospital. "It's not as bad as it could've been."
Restaurants and stores in Kona-Kailua cleaned up and were filled with tourists. Horses grazed on the golden grass in Waimea. Bicyclists, training for Saturday's Ironman Triathlon World Championship, zipped along Queen Kaahumanu Highway.
Remarkably, the Big Island — located closest to the epicenter — emerged virtually unscathed, with no reports of any deaths or serious injuries.
"We were really fortunate with the timing of it on a Sunday morning. If people were all at work, we could have had a lot more injuries," Vivian Landrum, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce executive director.
At least one stretch of road leading to a bridge near the epicenter collapsed, Civil Defense Agency spokesman Dave Curtis said. Several other roads on the Big Island were affected by mudslides, debris and boulders, but most were still passable, he said.
Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency Administrator Troy Kindred said 43 injuries were reported in connection with the earthquake, but most were minor. Seven of the island's 13 major reservoirs were inspected and no structural damage was found, he said.
Natural disasters are infrequent on the balmy island that is home to one of the world's most active volcanoes, but it has experienced two deadly tsunamis in the past 50 years.
"It lets you know Mother Nature is doing her thing," said Robin Eising, a teacher at Waikoloa Elementary School, which was closed Monday for inspection. "It was a wake-up call."
Still, officials cautioned that they needed to inspect the many bridges, roads, earthen dams, schools and other structures across the Big Island.
Ray Lovell, state Civil Defense spokesman, said a loss estimate was not immediately available because damage was so scattered. "It's just premature to come up with dollar estimates right now," he said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency flew a planeload of inspectors and officials to Honolulu on Monday with plans to go to the Big Island on Tuesday.
Utilities restored power to the Big Island and Maui and all but 1,000 Oahu customers by Monday evening. At its peak, the blackout affected nearly all 291,000 customers on Oahu and many more on other islands.
Mike Gardner, a 53-year-old claims adjuster from Waikoloa, said residents were calm as they took care of their families first, then offered help to neighbors, friends and visitors.
"I think that's truly Hawaiian," he said.